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WrestleMania XXVIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 04, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII
From SunLife Stadium in Miami, FL
April 1, 2012

BACKGROUND
It’s been purported that each WrestleMania event is generally planned a year in advance, and the booking is written backwards to support what they want to present on the grandest stage. While recent WrestleManias seem a bit more thrown-together at times, owing to an increasingly frenetic Vince McMahon being known to make constant changes, WrestleMania XXVIII was an event where a year-long plot was used, this time as an actual storyline.

One night after WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, John Cena called out The Rock. Rather than thrash the previous night’s guest host for costing him his World Title match against The Miz, a calm and happy-go-lucky Cena simply challenged Rock to a match at next year’s big event, giving both men one year to prepare for the clash of the ages.

The idea was unique for a modern time frame in which that $45 secondary PPV that you’re being offered has but two matches booked sixteen days before the event. It’s a little hard to get up for those shows (and buyrates seem to agree), but a WrestleMania where the main event is entrenched in everyone’s brains for 363 days?

Those “in-the-know” fans who balked at WWE’s most overexposed star, and most overexposed part-timer, getting a full calendar of non-stop billing would be rewarded by the successes of their heroes.

WWE was becoming a different place, as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, who’d each passed through Philadelphia’s Murphy Rec Center on the way to the top, won the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in 2011.

In spite of all of the social media blitzes, irksome moments from Michael Cole, and use of gimmickless FCW/NXT castoffs, it seemed WWE was crafting a WrestleMania unique among the pack. Between a year-long main event build, and two “workrate” champions, the everyday mold was finally being broken.

THE EVENT
Cena and Rock crossed paths prior to the WrestleMania main event, as Rock’s movie schedule allowed him to wrestle at Survivor Series 2011. That night at Madison Square Garden, he and Cena formed a super-team that annihilated The Miz and R-Truth. Afterward, Rock dropped Cena with a Rock Bottom as a reminder that, in four months, they’d each engage in a defining match in their careers.

After Cena was sidetracked by a hard-boiled feud with Kane through early 2012, he and Rock criss-crossed on the remaining road to WrestleMania, insulting each other in their typical juvenille fashion. Rock would host one of his trademark “Rock Concerts” laden with entendres and jibes toward the current company flagbearer, while Cena reinstituted his “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona, ripping into Rock with some lines that would make the kid-friendly sponsors cringe.

The match was even given a TV special on USA Network to promote the history of the icons, giving this match, dubbed “Once in a Lifetime”, a super fight feeling like no other in recent memory.

As if the dream match wasn’t enough to churn buyrates, the “end of an era” was also promised. The Undertaker, 19-0 at WrestleMania, wasn’t happy with how he barely eked the win out over Triple H one year earlier, and demanded a rematch with COO of the company.

Hunter initially balked, but The Dead Man persisted, eventually goading the man technically his boss into a fight. The Game agreed on one condition: that it be a Hell in a Cell match. Shawn Michaels, who’d had his career ended by Undertaker, was made guest referee as one last twist of the screw.

Sheamus was the winner of the 2012 Royal Rumble, last ousting a quizzically-acting Chris Jericho. The Celtic Warrior waited three weeks before deciding which championship to challenge for, ultimately deciding on the World Heavyweight title held by an increasingly-self-indulgent Daniel Bryan.

Bryan was an anomaly, winning the title as an underdog hero on December 18 via briefcase cash-in, but slowly took on a portrayal as an egomaniac jerk. Not only did he ignore the affection of girlfriend AJ Lee, but Bryan began to praise himself more and more for minor victories, many of them tainted. He even allowed AJ to be injured by a stampeding Big Show, all just to keep his title.

As for the WWE Championship, anti-hero CM Punk would face the winner of a ten man battle royal that took place on February 20. Jericho would win, and thus be afforded a chance to continue his vague “end of the world” crusade via the company’s top champion.

Jericho first began the mind games with Punk by claiming the “Straight Edge Superstar” had stolen his “Best in the World” moniker, which Punk gladly challenged Jericho to try and take back. With the champ not fazed, Y2J resorted to revealing the ugly family history of Punk, complete with the addictions his family members all once had. Jericho promised to lead Punk down the road of self-destruction en route to taking his title.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were the evening’s commentators, joined by a now-goateed Jim Ross for the Hell in a Cell match. For the third time, Lilian Garcia performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Fame Class of 2012 consisted of Edge, The Four Horsemen (dual induction for Ric Flair), Ron Simmons, Yokozuna, Mil Mascaras, and celebrity inductee Mike Tyson.

THE RESULTS
World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds to win the title
(And we stumble out of the gate. Boy the fans at SunLife dumped on them for this decision. I’ve said it in other mediums: it’s not the treatment of Bryan that made this moment suck; it was the belief by the company that Sheamus was going to look stronger as a result. The people who run WWE couldn’t find the pulse of the fans if they had a GPS)

Kane def. Randy Orton in 10:56
(I don’t know who this “Daniel Bryan” fellow is, but he sure got a lot of chants during this match. Decent contest that ended with a flying chokeslam)

WWE Intercontinental: Big Show def. Cody Rhodes in 5:18 to win the title
(The build was entertaining, with Rhodes showing film of Show’s WrestleMania embarrassments to psyche him out, but the match was all too brief. Rhodes actually reigned as champion for eight months)

Maria Menounos/Kelly Kelly def. Eve Torres/Beth Phoenix in 6:49
(All of these women are gone from WWE, which is a commentary on how women would rather do “something else” than work there. But I’d take a stinkface from Miss Menounos, at least)

Hell in a Cell/”End of an Era”: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 30:50
(Opinions of this one are a little divided. Some call this the greatest match in the history of the galaxy. Others think it was stupid to have Triple H assault Undertaker with basic moves, and have Michaels nearly “stop the match” because Taker couldn’t continue. Because Hunter’s so bad ass. Eh, 20-0 is 20-0, even if was slower and more plodding than Heaven’s Gate)

David Otunga/Mark Henry/The Miz/Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger/Drew McIntyre def. Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella/Great Khali/R-Truth/Zack Ryder/Booker T in 10:38
(As a result of this, John Laurinaitis won complete control of Raw and Smackdown from Teddy Long. Oh, and Zack Ryder looked like a useless tool. That’ll learn em)

WWE Championship: CM Punk def. Chris Jericho in 22:21
(A highly physical and intense battle that took some time to find second gear, I still found it to be the best match of the night. The battle at the end over the Anaconda Vise, with Punk refusing to give up on the hold, despite Jericho’s vicious struggle, was a nice touch)

“Once in a Lifetime”: The Rock def. John Cena in 33:34
(Nice throwback to the big-time WrestleMania main events of old, even if it was preceded by a six hour concert featuring Flo Rida and anorexic Shannon Moore. Cena’s undoing came as he tried a People’s Elbow, only to be Rock Bottom’d. Some said it was boring, but I actually liked it. Whether Rock has the endurance for another 30 minute match is another story)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
It’s hard to argue with 1.22 million buys, a WWE record, so some would say that a year-long build is the way to go. Rock would remain a part of WWE in a limited capacity, sticking around to challenge for the WWE Title at the 2013 Royal Rumble, but we’ll get to that next year.

The show began disastrously, and the fans largely didn’t come out of their anger-induced coma until the Hell in a Cell match. As many people who remember that match, and Rock and Cena’s epic showdown, equally remember how the show opened with the misstep of Sheamus and Bryan, possibly the worst WrestleMania booking since Hogan went over a tired Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX.

It wasn’t a terrible show, but it wasn’t a home run in any way except financially (undoubtedly important, despite our gripes). For the official “portrait” of the show, my pick will be a split screen. On one side is Shawn Michaels and Undertaker holding up a semi-conscious Triple H on the stage, while The Rock stands tall on the other side. WWE more than ever lives off of the past, as it can’t create an exciting present. Logically, their imagery should make you think you’re in 1998.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WWE WrestleMania X-Seven: Simply The Best

March 24, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-For the remaining nine reviews, since they’re all 4 hours (and one is 5), I’ll be chopping out a little bit of quantity to make it my standard 4000+ word format. Which is a shame because for this show, I want to rant forever.

-Who was the April Fool on April 1, 2001 as we come to you from the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, TX for WWE WrestleMania X-Seven? Well, Vince had just bought WCW so they were finished, and ECW was days away from its bankruptcy hearing, so the biggest non-fool was Vince. Wait, why am I wasting time? I only have 4000 words to tell you that this is the greatest wrestling show in the history of time, so let’s just do it!

-Your hosts are Jim Ross and Paul Heyman, who had taken over for Jerry Lawler one month prior when Lawler quit the company. He quit in protest because WWE fired his girlfriend, the one who three months later ran off with an indie guy and publically disgraced “The King”. Boy, you can imagine THAT was embarrassing.

-No America the Beautiful or national anthem. Given the events that occurred five months later, do you really think WWE is a patriotic company, or just cashing in on jingoistic trends? You can guess my point of view.

-We start with the IC Title match, as Chris Jericho defends against then-commissioner William Regal. Jericho besmirched Regal by peeing in his tea, so Regal besmirched him back by kicking the snot out of him. That’s exactly how Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard got started.

-I miss the days before Regal discovered tanning, when every babyface opponent he had would light him up with chops just to redden his chest. Hunter can try that now with Sheamus, to see if the chest will match the hair.

-A lot of fan pinfall attempts, which leads one to think that this isn’t going to be a very long match. Everybody get your stuff in now!

-Regal slams Jericho into the exposed turnbuckle a couple of times, but Jericho basically shakes the pain off and hits the run-up enzuigiri. Of the eleven matches on this card, I think this is definitely the best opener choice. You can cut it short, and nobody gets upset about it. It’s also two pros that can bring the massive crowd to life in the early going, so good choices all around.

-Jericho lands a lionsault and remembers that his shoulder’s supposed to be hurt before covering Regal to keep the gold. Good seven minute opener that did what it had to do, and we’re off to a good start.

-Shane McMahon arrives in a limo. Forget Triple H and Stephanie, is Shane the biggest Jericho hater in the McMahon army? He can’t even show up in time for his match on the biggest night of the year, and he owns STOCK in the company!

-Next up, in a moderate “Get everybody on the show” attraction, Tazz and the APA take on Right to Censor members Val Venis, The Goodfather, and Bull Buchanan. Remember when Bradshaw used to have to get heat with his patriotic Texas boy suck-up rants? He has to namedrop Nolan Ryan here to get the crowd behind him, even though he’s fighting three tools in dress clothes who want to get rid of sex and violence. Tough times for JBL.

-Match is basically just an exhibition to keep the crowd noise on life support as we progress into the bigger matches. The only real spot of note is Tazz missing the top rope on a whip because he’s about 4’7”. Tazz can speak in that angry voice all he wants, but I still laughed.

-Bradshaw finishes a quick one with the Clothesline From Hell on Goodfather. At least the faces won, which keeps the fans happy. Can you believe that on the face team, you have a WWE Champion, WCW Champion, and ECW Champion? I couldn’t believe it either.

-Just a quick side note: the greatest character in wrestling history is comatose Linda McMahon. Seriously, she’s so lifeless, how does she DO it? Oh, that’s just how she really is?

-To give the crowd a violence appetizer before TLC later, Raven defends the Hardcore Title against Kane and Big Show. This is notable because Show’s late getting to the ring, and JR goes on a worked-shoot tangent about how Show can’t make a living off of potential, that he has to get it done in the ring. Man, when a guy who’s known for making barbecue references in every third sentence calls you a lazy mook, then maybe you should get ye a treadmill.

-After brawling backstage through the sea of people, Kane and Raven keep the tempo alive while Show sulks behind. Alright, JR, you were right.

-Show tries to lock himself and Raven in an enclosure, but Kane just rips the door off. Hey Show, if Kane can tear off the Hell in a Cell door, this should be a cinch. For a bonus, Kane throws Raven through a window. That’s enough to earn Kane the Mike Mizanin “I Came to Play” award.

-Then comes the golf cart chase, as Raven tries to drive off and he and Show barrel into the chain link fence, then Kane follows with the referee and proves to be a smooth driver, not unlike Mike Myers in the original Halloween. Then he runs over Raven’s leg. Well, ouch.

-Finally, Raven gets put out of his misery when the fight spills back onto the stage, and Kane kicks him and Show off through a side platform. Then Kane leaps off and covers Show for the win and the title. It seemed like it was just going to be filler at first, but it turned into quite the exciting little match. I enjoyed it.

-Kurt Angle’s too busy watching a match with he and Chris Benoit to have seen Raven’s effort in the last match. Well, that’s just selfish. Also, The Rock arrives now, just to spite the undercard. Screw Bull Buchanan, who’d he ever beat?

-Up next is the European Title, as Test defends against Eddie Guerrero. Hoo boy, is this match just plain creepy now. At least Perry Saturn’s hat cheers me up.

-Eddie does what he does best, and he sells for Test and his power display. Question: Why do we refer to Eddie Guerrero as “Eddie” but Chris Benoit as “Benoit”? Is it because “Guerrero” is too complicated to spell for some people? It’s a surname, for chrissakes, let’s just learn it. GUERRERO does what he does best. There, I broke the habit.

-Now to spice things up a bit, Test gets his ankle caught in the ropes, and they have to spend 60 seconds figuring out how to free him, getting a big ovation when they finally do. It’s the biggest pop Test got post-1999, so it’s definitely a banner night for all.

-Dean Malenko runs out to speed things things along, since he wants to see the Benoit/Angle match, so he helps Saturn distract Test, allowing Guerrero to hit Test with the European title for the win and the gold. Decent match, but just was there to get everyone involved. First heel win of the night.

-Mick Foley promises to call tonight’s Vince and Shane match right down the middle. Yeah, like Mick has a reason to be biased against Vince.

-Now for something a little more serious: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit in a straight up one on one match. This is the first time in WWE history that I can recall two men doing the mat-wrestling stalemate sequence to begin a match, and getting a tremendous ovation for it. I like the story here, as Benoit keeps scaring Angle with the Crossface, and Kurt’s nerves lead to him falling into other Benoit moves. The psychology’s always sound with these two.

-Angle takes control, dominating Benoit on the outside and then pummeling him with suplexes inside. They were really beginning to get Angle over as a mat machine, you know, before he and Austin became unlikely best friends. Badges?

-Angle gets his belly to belly suplexes, and Benoit comes back with the rolling Germans. I think we have the first match of the night candidate. Sorry, Raven and Jericho, you’re out of the running.

-Now for a staple of WWE at the time: mind-screw submission holds, as Benoit applies Angle’s own anklelock, and Angle manages to get his own version of the Crossface. Crowd’s enjoying themselves too. Maybe there’s hope for Daniel Bryan yet.

-After a ref bump, Benoit gets Angle in his own Crossface, and Angle of course taps without an official. Story of Benoit’s life. As Benoit goes to maybe blow a snot rocket on the dead ref, Angle gets an Angle Slam for 2. After Benoit gets the diving headbutt, but when Benoit tries for a German, Angle goes low and gets a complicated rollover to win. Great match, and it told the characters’ stories to a tee: one is great, but the other is greater when he cheats. I’m enjoying myself all over again.

-Psuedo intermission segment where the following happens: Kamala destroys Regal’s office, footage is shown at the Fort Hood rally (RIP to those who perished in the recent shooting), and Benoit beats up Angle backstage and makes him tap.

-Ivory defends the Women’s title against Chyna, and since I have disdain for both performers, let’s just say that Chyna dresses like some demented version of a Bratz doll and beats Ivory in three minutes to win the title. Remember when Chyna said that belt was beneath her? So do I. She’d be gone within months to realize her true calling: incomprehensible walking meltdown for the Howard Stern fringe crowd. Always good to see someone realize their potential.

-Vince promises that tonight, we’re going to get “shocking”. I hate it when he promises surprises. He’d be a great evil dad in horror movies, though. “You wanna go for a ride? I’ll take you….for a ride….heh heh heh heh….”

-So it’s Vince and Shane in a street fight, which began when Shane defended Linda’s honor after Vince cheated on her publicly with Trish. Stephanie sided with Vince because of the whole Elektra complex. Shane then bought WCW before his dad could, just to show that he could run something as doomed to fail as the XFL. Foley’s the ref, just because. Linda’s in a wheelchair doing her best acting over. Trish is here too. Got all that?

-Shane gives a shoutout to his WCW homies in the skybox. LANCE STORM! HE FINALLY MADE IT TO WrestleMania! I wonder if he’s writing down notes on how horrible this show is. He’s like Comic Book Guy with a six pack.

-The brawl spills to the floor, where Shane bashes his dead with a metal sign, and then some SICK shots with a kendo stick that was under the ring. Good God, can Vince take a beating or what? Say what you will, but in these matches, he seems to have some sort of endurance level that can’t be obtained by mere mortals. I mean, Shane is just PASTING him, not even holding back. I’m loving it.

-Know who’s needed in the skybox? Ted Turner, just so he can mark out TOO hard when Shane beats his dad with assorted weapons. That would be a hallmark moment.
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-By the way, Heyman’s unabashed devotion to cheering Vince is insanely funny, and it sounds like the ranting of someone who desperately needs money. Funny because it’s true.

-So Shane wipes out through the Spanish commentary table as Stephanie pulls her dad off of it. Shane gets to play dead for the next five minutes or so as Trish brings Linda out in the wheelchair. Now comes the fun stuff.

-Trish slaps Vince to signal a face turn, and then she and Stephanie get into a fun catfight that Foley tries to break up. Scrooge. Trish finally chases Steph to the locker room, and that’s when Vince spots Linda at ringside. His mouthing of a certain obscenity is a great moment.

-Vince smashes Mick with a chair as Foley tries to get Linda to safety. He brings Linda inside and sits her in the corner, so she can watch as he punishes Shane further. After landing a couple trash can shots, Vince gets cocky before doing the third, and is oblivious to Linda standing up (to a CRAZY pop). Vince turns and she kicks him right in the Genetic Jackhammer. Then Foley beats Vince up, and then Shane lands the Shane Terminator (corner to corner dropkick, into a trash can into Vince’s face) for the win. THIS is the template for “overbooked crap” that we need more of. Just insanely fun stuff, and it still holds up even today. Hell, the whole SHOW is holding up.

-Backstage, Undertaker warms up for his eventual match by shadow boxing. That’ll work off the pork rinds if you do enough of them.

-In case that the last match wasn’t enough of an insane spotfest, here’s something to take things up another notch: the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match between Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian. Difference between this and last year is that this year, there’s no crappy show to have to kick into high gear.

-Much like last year, they get the poetry in motion and the Wazzzzzup drops out of the way, just to get to the bigger stuff in a flurry. I wholeheartedly support this idea.

-Here’s a sick one for you: both Hardyz slide into a ladder, knocking the Dudleyz against the guardrail. I have to say, the dark sky peeking in through the dome makes it feel like that this match is taking place at WrestleMania VI. I’d love to see the Rockers, Harts, and Demolition in one of these matches. Crap, I just blew my own mind.

-“D-VON…..GET THE TABLES!” And with that, a two wide, two high stack of four tables is set up in the aisleway. Anyone else think they’ll get used? I do.

-And just like last year, all six men climb a set of three ladders for a race-spot, and all six men tumble off in painful fashion. It was times like this when WWE really knew their audience.

-To add a new wrinkle to this year’s match, all three teams have an ally that makes his or her presence felt. As Edge climbs to get the belts, Spike Dudley runs in and nails him with the Dudley Dog. After Spike gives Christian one as well, Rhyno comes in and accosts Jeff Hardy on behalf of E&C. Then Edge tries going up again, and Lita runs in to pull him down. Jim Ross utters “Lita….jerkin’ Edge off” and then pauses before saying “the ladder!”. I’m immature, I know, but what are you going to do about it?

-Lita creams Spike with a sickening chair shot and then removes her top, just get hit with 3D. Anybody else miss her protruding thong?

-Jeff decides that now is a good time to be insane, as he uses the painter’s ladder to Swanton off and put Rhyno and Spike through at ringside. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.

-Then with Bubba and Matt on another painter’s ladder, Rhyno shoves it, sending both men flying through the table tower in the aisle in what I feel is the greatest table bump EVER. Prove me wrong, readers.

-Finally, Edge prevents D-Von from climbing, and Rhyno lifts Christian in an electric chair lift, pushing him up the ladder so that he can grab the belts for the win. Off the charts insanity that topped last year’s match, and the truncated length definitely helped. Great effort from everyone involved.

-Howard Finkel (#17!) announces the crowd at 67,925 which makes me feel all nostalgic for 1990 and WrestleMania VI. Then Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” plays. Well, that ruined the feeling. Still, it’s Fred Durst’s best song, so huzzah.

-And now for the gimmick battle royal, with Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan returning to do commentary. The participants are The Bushwhackers, Duke Droese, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, Doink, The Goon, Kamala, Kim Chee, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael PS Hayes, One Man Gang, Gobbeldy Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, and Sgt. Slaughter. Somewhere, RD Reynolds had a tear in his eye. And it wasn’t because he knew he’d one day employ Blade Braxton.

-What follows is three minutes of bad brawling, but who cares? It was FUN. Sheik finally wins it after dumping Hillbilly, and then Slaughter runs in to apply the Cobra Clutch on the winner. Watch out Slaughter, he’ll do a Youtube shoot on you for that one.

-Hooray for the patron saint of camelclutchblog.com. YOU VILL BE HUM-BELLED!

-MOTORHEAD! Sure, Lemmy can’t do the words to Triple H‘s theme right, but it’s ok. Chill-inducing rendition of “The Game”, as we lead into the semi-main event of The Undertaker and Triple H, streak vs. nostrils. The feud featured Hunter’s most bad ass moment ever, when he took Taker down backstage, put a chair over his throat, and then sat on it while taunting him. Good stuff.

-Spanish announce table #2 goes in a hurry, thanks to HHH. Good to see Hunter keep his dad-in-law’s pro American stance alive.

-Back inside, after a SMALL ref bump, Taker is pissed when Mike Chioda counts slow, so Taker simply destroys him and knocks him out. With an elbow drop. For 10 minutes. If you heard two sounds of gunfire at this point, that was tranq darts being fired at Cornette backstage and Storm in the skybox. Just shut up, you two.

-The two men then brawl through the crowd and over to the production tower, which is a unique situation for a wrestling match. The two men fight in there, and Undertaker proceeds to chokeslam him out of it. SICKNESS! Well, until they show the replay, where Hunter landed on about 7 feet of padded foam. Eh well, looked nice at first.

-Back to the ring after the extended crowd brawl, and Chioda is still out. That was some elbow drop.

-After some tomfoolery with the sledgehammer, Taker is unable to connect after a low blow. Then to get all nostalgic, Taker lands a tombstone for 2. CHIODA’S ALIVE! I’m relieved.

-Taker then tries for the Last Ride, but Hunter grabs the sledge and bashed the Dead Man’s scalp on the way up. He busts him open, but it only gets 2. Hunter then tries to punch Taker in the corner, but puts himself in position for his Last Ride to make Taker 9-0. Really great brawl, as you’d expect from these two. Ten matches in, and I haven’t even stopped for a piss break. And I’m watching this at 11 PM at night, with work the next day at 1 PM. Ya rly!

-Austin-Rock highlight package set to “My Way”. Austin said he HAD to win this match. Question is, just what will Austin do to ensure victory?

-Crowd is 80-20 in favor of Steve Austin, who is the home state hero. The Rock was the WWE Champion, and you wondered how they were going to end this. I’ll bet nobody watching guessed it right.

-Finkel did announce that it was no DQ, which is apparently shocking. You mean after a match where Taker flagrantly beats up the referee, they just threw the rulebook out? Absurd!

-Both men slug it out early and they bust out the classic moves, namely Austin with his Thesz press and middle finger elbow. You can sense the desperation from Austin here.

-They brawl into the crowd, like everyone else has done tonight. I think even Finkel and timekeeper Mark Yeaton went over the railing at one point.

-Austin dominates in the early going, which is consistent with the “I need to win” motif that he has, believing that it’s all over for himself if he loses. It’s those subtle character hints that WWE does better than anyone else. Are you listening, Dixie?

-Austin gets a superplex for 2 and then removes the turnbuckle pad, but Rock comes back to shift the momentum. They fight to the outside and Austin busts him open with the ringbell. Austin’s not going down without a fight.

-Austin works the cut as much as he can, and brings Rock back in to try and bash him into the exposed buckle, but Rock blocks and fires with lefts and rights to stop Austin in his tracks. After the two men jostle for control, it’s Austin who, ironically, eats the steel buckle. Then Rock repays him by waffling him with the ring bell. Tremendous, cerebral stuff, with a big time feel.

-With Austin now bleeding and Rocky now firmly in charge, the champ works the open cut and both men are fighting to stay alive. On the outside, Austin shifts the momentum yet again and slingshots Rock into the post, before bashing him with a TV monitor. At this point, the eventual winner was still not evident.

-Austin tries for a Stunner, but Rock takes him down and slaps on the sharpshooter. Reminiscent of four years earlier, Austin is bloodied, but will not give up. Austin uses the ropes for escape, and then wraps Rock up with his own Sharpshooter. The implied one-upsmanship on display here is incredible, and is a testament to both’s men abilities.

-Austin manages to get a Million Dollar Dream, but Rock uses the Bret Hart pushoff counter to get 2. Then Vince McMahon comes to ringside. But….but why?

-Rock takes down Austin with a spinebuster and then lands the People’s Elbow, but it only gets 2 when….Vince breaks up the pin? This was all so fresh and baffling. Why would Vince be helping Austin in the World Title match?

-Then after Austin lands a Rock Bottom on its owner, he gets 2, and then gives Rock an emphatic low blow. Then Austin….requests a chair from Vince? Vince….obliges?

-From here, Austin and Vince proceed to double team Rock in a truly surreal sequence. After Rock manages a kickout, he gives Austin a Rock Bottom, but Vince prevents a count. Rock pulls Vince into the ring, but Austin stuns Rock, getting only 2! AMAZING.

-Now we get the big finish: Austin destroys Rock with chair shot after chair shot while Vince barks out encouragement. In all, Rock takes about two dozen chair shots to the chest, gut, back, and hips as his body just simply gives out and Austin pins him to win the title. Austin and Vince celebrate with a beer, a handshake, and then Austin lays out Rock with the title to pull the trigger on his shocking heel turn. Excellent match to cap off an excellent show and, although the heel turn proved to be ineffective, the concept was interesting, and it added a new dimension to the character’s psyche: Austin felt his end was coming soon, and he had to do everything he could to hold his main event spot to prevent becoming an afterthought. Brilliant idea, but it just didn’t work.

-Limp Bizkit plays us out of here with a beautiful montage to “My Way”. I have to say, that might be my favorite WrestleMania song ever. And I HATE Fred Durst!

-CYNIC SAYS: Ho. Lee. Crap. I don’t think Vince McMahon, even with a perfect roster and a huge wave of momentum, could ever top this show. It was perfect from start to finish, and everything had a purpose. Those purposes were thusly served to perfection. Four matches you could make an argument were four stars are better: the technical masterpiece (Benoit/Angle), the wild soap opera (Vince/Shane), the insane spotfest (TLC), the mano y mano brawl (HHH/Taker), and the battle of the larger than life immortals (Rock/Austin).

This show is regarded as the end of the Attitude era, but what a way for it to go out. WWEE has not seen heights like this since, and although it may again one day, it’ll take a lot to convince me that it’s as good as this card. What’s left to say?

Oh, I know.

POSITIVE. FIVE. STARS!

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WWE WrestleMania X-Seven: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 24, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA X7
From The Houston Astrodome in Houston, TX
April 1, 2001

BACKGROUND
After two straight WrestleManias in which the WWF held a sizeable lead over WCW in the Monday Night Wars, the Monday before WrestleMania X7 would see Vince McMahon pull the plug for good.

On Friday, March 23, 2001, McMahon purchased selected assets of World Championship Wrestling from parent company AOL-Time Warner, ending WCW’s 13 year existence. After gutting the corpse of talent contracts and the film library, McMahon left WCW for dead, effectively monopolizing the wrestling industry for himself.

On Monday, March 26, wrestling fans were treated to a surreality of Vince McMahon being the first face seen as Nitro hit the airwaves for the final time. Raw and Nitro would be simulcast , with the WWF overseeing both shows. As Nitro came to a close at the 10 o’clock hour, Shane McMahon revealed, in story terms, that he swooped in and bought the WCW entity from under his dad’s nose. The WCW acquisition by Shane would lead to a faux-interpromotional war between Vince’s WWF and Shane’s WCW, which, while highly anticipated by fans the world over, fizzled to an unsatisfying conclusion.

Meanwhile, McMahon’s ill-fated Xtreme Football League was limping to its demise after one lone season, due to poor play, a lack of name players, and generally polarizing publicity stunts.

However, in the World Wrestling Federation, life remained grand. After taking their programming to Viacom in September 2000 (Raw on TNN, Heat on MTV), the WWF was helped along by Stone Cold Steve Austin’s return that month, after a ten months injured.

The main event scene was clogged with the usual pieces like Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Undertaker, while clearing space for the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho.

As WrestleMania X7 was built to perfection, few knew that things would change drastically afterward.

THE EVENT
Stone Cold Steve Austin won the 2001 Royal Rumble, becoming the event’s only three time winner, and earning a main event match at WrestleMania. The Rock, one month later, would defeat Kurt Angle to regain the WWF Championship, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated encounter between he and Austin, would both men as faces.

The two men did a sitdown interview weeks before the match, giving legitimate compliments to each other, while throwing in some backhanded remarks to heighten the tension. In a curious tidbit that was overlooked by the majority of fans, Austin repeatedly stated that he “needed” to win this match. Austin didn’t elaborate too much on why victory was of the utmost necessity, but the phrasing seemed to be his central point.

Rock and Austin would spend the waning weeks saving each other from double team assaults featuring the likes of Angle, Rikishi, Haku, and others, while using each other’s vulnerable state to plant each other with their finishing moves, as well as lifting the other man’s move (Rock performing the Stone Cold Stunner, Austin the Rock Bottom) to try and gain a psychological edge on the other man.

Although built up as a match of equals with a mutual respect in spite of their over competitive meddles, Austin’s “needing” to win would lead to an unforgettable decision.

Shadowing the main event was an encounter between The Undertaker and Triple H, ten years before they’d face off at WrestleMania XXVII. At this point, however, Triple H was more of an inconsiderate hatemonger, while Undertaker had put his ghoulish attire away in exchange for his biker duds. The story began when Triple H lamented not being in the WrestleMania main event (after beating Austin one month prior at No Way Out). “The Game” claimed to have beaten everyone in WWE there was to beat, drawing Undertaker’s ire.

The two men would exchange instances of brutality over the next several weeks, with Undertaker being busted open with a sledgehammer shot, and then returning the favor by destroying Helmsley’s limo with a lead pipe. Undertaker even had brother Kane hold Stephanie McMahon hostage, threatening to toss her from a balcony, if William Regal wouldn’t give him Triple H for WrestleMania. The commissioner relented, and the match was on.

As mentioned earlier, Vince and Shane McMahon were in the midst of another spat over WCW’s ownership, and the two would sign to face off in a street fight. Mick Foley, whom Vince canned in December, would return to be the guest referee.

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The underlying saga at hand was Vince’s intent to divorce wife, Linda, during a fit of anger in the same time period. Linda was stricken by grief and shock, and lapsed into a catatonic state, resulting in institutionalization. McMahon then began cavorting around with Trish Stratus, while embarrassing her as well at will, and promised to bring wheelchair-bound Linda to ringside for the street fight.

Jim Ross and Paul Heyman (fresh from the wreckage of ECW) would call the action in WWF’s first domed Wrestlemania in nine years. Members of the WCW roster such as Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Stacy Keibler, and others would appear in a skybox as onlookers. Legendary metal warriors Motorhead would also appear, to play Triple H to the ring with his popular theme “The Game”.

THE RESULTS
WWF Intercontinental: Chris Jericho def. William Regal in 7:08
(Jericho lamented this match in his latest book, thinking it was too short, but it served the purpose of getting the show going. Jericho would be repaid for his hard work later, obviously)

Tazz/APA def. Right to Censor in 3:53
(You know what’s amazing? Everyone on the face team can claim a World Title. And two of them became good color commentators, while the other became known for “DAMN!”)

WWF Hardcore: Kane def. Raven and Big Show in 9:18 to win the title
(Insane fun, especially the golf cart chase, as well as Jim Ross’ cryptic remark at Big Show: “Show has all the potential in the world, but you can’t make a living off potential! You gotta get it done!” That means you’re useless, Show)

WWF European: Eddie Guerrero def. Test in 8:30 to win the belt
(It’s depressing that both men are dead, so I’ll just lighten the mood by complimenting Perry Saturn and his awesome furry hat. I want one)

Kurt Angle def. Chris Benoit in 14:02
(The first true technical classic since Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels faced off five years earlier in the Iron Man match, and this one was merely one quarter the length of that. Good wrestling is always welcome in the eclectic blend that is WrestleMania)

WWF Women’s: Chyna def. Ivory in 2:39 to win the title
(If you hate Chyna, fear not: she won’t appear in these WrestleMania portraits anymore)

Street Fight: Shane McMahon def. Vince McMahon in 14:12
(Geez, where to begin? Well, there was a kendo stick, a cat fight between Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon, Shane missing a flying elbow through a table, Linda coming out of her pseudo-coma to kick Vince in the nuts, and Shane hit the Van Terminator to win. Overbooked insanity at its finest)

WWF World Tag Team/Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: Edge/Christian def. The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in 15:53 to win the titles
(Rarely would a TLC match have its work cut out for it after any match, but Vince and Shane pulled out all the stops. TLC did as well, adding each team’s respective ally (Rhyno, Lita, and Spike Dudley) to up the ante. Next to Summerslam 2000, this is the greatest TLC match ever. All six men would still have greater career heights ahead of them as well)

Gimmick Battle Royal: The Iron Sheik won, last eliminating Hillbilly Jim in 3:05
(Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan were on commentary, Repo Man showed up, and Iron Sheik humbled his way to victory. My cable could have went out after this match, and it still would have won “Best Show Ever” from me)

The Undertaker def. Triple H in 18:17
(That’s nine. Crazy brawl that featured an improbable ten minute ref bump (after a frigging stomp and elbow drop from Taker), but it was still intense throughout. Undertaker also kicked out of a sledgehammer shot, so there were still traces of his zombie gimmick there)

WWF World Heavyweight: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. The Rock in 28:06 to win the title
(And then it happened: a classic back-and-forth war between two of the greatest ever sees Vince McMahon storm the ring and assist Austin in bloodying and battering Rock, leading to Austin winning the title, shaking hands with McMahon, and turning heel. Mind blowing at the time, head scratching in hindsight, the show ended with Austin and McMahon aligned, ending the Attitude Era)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
At this time, the WWF began to use music from contemporary artists as the themes for their pay per views. For WrestleMania X7, Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” provided a goosebump-inducing soundtrack to one of the most dramatic and exciting events in wrestling history.

“My Way” is appropriate, because that’s what Vince McMahon had to do to get to this point. His way brought WCW to its knees and made wrestling mainstream, after all. But on the other blade of the double edged sword, McMahon’s penchant for not listening to naysayers saw him curiously turn Austin heel, sending a shockwave through the industry.

Austin’s neutering into an non-confident, insecure villain, not to mention The Rock’s hiatus to film The Scorpion King, resulted in a WWF that felt drastically different. When Triple H tore his quadriceps in May, and that was followed by the horrid Invasion angle, the WWF had completely lost the aura of “cool” that Attitude afforded them.

As a show, it’s the greatest single event that the WWF has produced from a quality standpoint. The ending, however, is like a black mark on a white wedding dress. It’s glaring ugliness stands out just as much as the quality event.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WWE WrestleMania 2000: Look Russo, A Swerve That Works

March 23, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-Given that Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Sting, and Rob Van Dam are all big parts of wrestling right now, I just assumed that I was living in the year 2000, and that I was done with my review tour after WWE WrestleMania XV. So I was kicking back, drinking iced tea and mentally congratulating myself, when Eric informs me that I’m only 60% done. Apparently, there was another decade of these things that happened, and I’m obligated to finish them all. He didn’t buy my “card subject to change” excuse, and so I’m back to work.

-So journey with me back to April 2, 2000, as we return to the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim. WWE was in high gear at this point, running an all-day WrestleMania commemorative PPV to precede the night’s big card. WCW was on the verge of a relaunch, which was their last gasp at trying to turn things around, and ECW was so far in the debt that the bookies who beat up Chevy Chase in Dirty Work were eyeing Paul E. next. So with a loaded roster, many popular characters, and a rabid fanbase in their pocket, it looked like WWE had a gimme here, right?

-To kick things off, Lillian Garcia takes us through America the Beautiful. Had the song had people’s names in it, how many do you think she would have stumbled over? Ten? More than ten?

-The thing with this show is that the entire roster is involved, except for Austin and Taker (both injured), Mideon, Gangrel (both slated for the Hardcore title match, but both injured), and Essa Rios (According to the Bobby Heenan book of jokes, it was some bad enchiladas. Hey, don’t look at me, it’s what it says). So this makes for a VERY crammed card, especially with everyone crammed into nine matches. If wrestlers collectively made up the lower half of the human body, then WrestleMania 2000 is a pair of Kim Kardashian’s skinny jeans.

-To kick things off, The Godfather and D-Lo Brown will take on Big Bossman and Bull Buchanan. In addition to the bevy of ho’s that Godfather has with him at all times, he’s also accompanied by Ice-T, who performs a rap version of The Godfather’s music on the way to the ring. From performing a rap theme about pimping to playing a hard nosed SVU detective in just six months. Who says Ice T isn’t versatile. I still think during this match, Daryl Gates should have whacked T with a chair. COP KILLLLLLLLAHHHH.

-This match has no story, except for maybe the fact that it’s 2 happy pimps and 2 evil cops. This would set the precedent for evil teetotaler CM Punk and loveable junkie Jeff Hardy about nine years later.

-Am I alone in thinking that Bull’s scissor kick was better than Booker T’s? At least Bull didn’t stop and pose while the opponent had to remain hunched over like he had the trots. Bull lands a beaut on D-Lo, and the crowd is wanting a better opener than this. Ah, the perils of putting everyone on the card.

-Not to be outdone, Bossman applies a bear hug to D-Lo. Well, okay, it doesn’t top a scissors kick, but Bossman DID bust out the best move he had in his arsenal at the time. Sad to say.

-D-Lo manages a top rope hurrachanrana on Bossman. Given that Bossman’s involved, I thought that was impossible, even in video games. The fact that he climbed the buckles at this stage of his career astounds me. I kinda thought it would be like Fire Pro where a big man tries to climb the buckle and falls on his back after merely touching the bottom rope. Alas.

-Godfather with the hot tag, who does about a minute’s worth of work before Brown is tagged back in, and he falls victim to the Bossman Slam and Buchanan legdrop to give the keystone kops the win. Not a bad opener, but not a good one, either. Godfather must have the endurance levels of a dialysis patient to only be able to last that long. Godfather and Bull, however, would go on to combat the evils of free expression in Right to Censor just months later. It’s amazing what brings people together.

-Stephanie and Trips admire their belts. If Santino and Beth were Glamarella, what does this make these two? My money’s on Stepha-Nose.

-Up next, a thirteen man Hardcore Title fracas, featuring champion Crash Holly, Hardcore Holly, Viscera, Tazz, the APA, The Headbangers, The Mean Street Posse, and Kaientai. It’s like the unlockables list on a WWE Playstation 1 game. You know, you win the Royal Rumble from the #1 spot with someone like Mankind and you get to play as the Headbangers. Then you’d be so thrilled that you give up playing for a few days to deal with your excitement.

-So the rules are same as scramble match rules, in that there’s 15 minutes and whoever scores the final pinfall or submission is the champion. The difference is that every “interim reign” counts in the record books. Using this logic, in Super Bowl 39, since the Eagles had a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, then they’re former Super Bowl champions! Thank you, Vince McMahon, for helping me justify my faulty logic!

-So, here’s a quick summary of the chaos: Tazz wins it, followed by Viscera, who 70% of the participants don’t attack even though you have to PIN the champ, Funaki wins it, then Taka goes nuts on him, Pete Gas bleeds, Funaki gets chased by everyone (which needed Yakety Sax), The Posse and Thrasher exchange reigns, Tazz gets it back, then Crash, then Hardcore, who wins it off of a botched count by Tim White. Careful, Timmy, Hardcore’s mean to people who make mistakes. Ken Anderson’s been threatened with murder on youtube, and Spark Plugg’s pretty damned serious. Fun stuff, if unfocused.

-Quick note: so Tazz struggled against 12 undercard guys, and then 11 days later, he goes back to ECW and beats the champion in 3 minutes to win the belt, and said champ (Mike Awesome) goes to WCW where he’s pushed. In summary, your honor, WCW sucks hard and I have overwhelming evidence to support my claim. Besides the booking.

-We get a look at AXXESS and a blond haired Undertaker(!!), who was in the middle of his vigorous cheese fries and Old Milwaukee diet that led to his stellar comeback a few months later. For as much as we love Taker now, would you believe how useless he was until about 2006 when he began to work up to his opponents’ level? How soon we all forget. And I LIKE the guy, but man did injuries and laziness take their toll in this era.

-Al Snow is talking to a bathroom stall. And here I was finished with the Terry Garvin jokes.

-Making their WrestleMania debut: Trish Stratus’ breasts. Yum.

-Next, we have Head Cheese (Al Snow and Steve Blackman) vs. T&A (Test and Albert). With about 17,000 fans on hand, this is the most pairs of eyes that have been on something called “T&A” in wrestling history. Yeah, I crossed the line. The Cheesers have a midget dressed as a block of cheese in their corner (Chester McCheeserton) and T&A has Trish. Jeez, Snow even does the job when it comes to his corner people.

-What follows is one of the most bland tag team matches in Mania history, highlighted by the fact that Snow is the only one of the four to have any personality, and he winds up taking an awkward bump from some crappy powerbomb thingy by the hosses. Even Jim Ross can’t defend this match, and he used to try and sell the Ding Dongs as a threat. When Ross gives up on you, it’s time to pack it in.

-Test lands a diving elbow on Snow for the win. Then afterward, Snow and Blackman beat up the cheese midget, which gets the biggest pop of the match. I think Vince wanted to do something artsy and David Lynch-like, so he had a match with a human block of cheese, a hot blond, a man who carries a mannequin head, a team named for female curves, and 17,000 silent onlookers. I’m certain that was in the original draft for Mulholland Drive. I’m done rationalizing this mess.

-The Kat is naked backstage, and oblivious to the camera. Mae Young is clothed and I’m damn happy. Quick, name the five male wrestlers on this show that Mae has outlived! Depressed? Well, ya should be.

-Alright, let’s kick this crap up a notch. The WWE World Tag Team Titles are on the line in a triple ladder match, with the Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian. This is the in-ring Mania debuts for all six men, and expectations were high given the stipulations. Given the lackluster nature of the show thus far, the fans may have let their guard down here. That would change.

-Before we get to the crazy fun of this match, I’d like to point out that Edge’s hat makes him look like an extremely feminine version of Lemmy Kilmister. Christian won the coin toss, and chose the ridiculous Euro-style sunglasses. Good choice, Captain Charisma.

-Whisper in the Wind and the Bubba Butt Bomb come out early. That’s fine, get the routine spots over with. It’s the un-routine stuff that we’re waiting for. Like Jeff landing Poetry in Motion into a ladder onto Bubba Ray. That’s sick spot number one, and I’m gonna quit counting while I’m ahead.

-YEEE-OUCH. Jeff misses a 450 splash on Bubba and crashes on the ladder. This might be the night Jeff may consider a Percocet or two. Or six. Or a hundred. Whatever he can handle. Then Bubba hits a back splash onto the ladder, crushing Jeff. That’s something these two can reminisce about in TNA as they watch Ric Flair throw half speed chops with his pectorals resembling sting-ray wings.

-Christian launches over the top with a crossbody on Matt and Bubba. Me? I’m just waiting for Edge and Matt to slug it out so that can make the requisite jokes that became en vogue in about five years.

-Matt lands a sitout hammer bomb on Edge off of the ladder. There’s not enough there to make a Lita joke, but don’t worry, I’m not blind to trying. Blind is what Matt was when it took him months to realize that Lita was running around with Adam. OOHHH, still got it!

-What makes this match special is that there was no “overbooking” in the sense that nobody was told to focus on getting one guy over. I miss this about WWE: they used to have matches like this and let everyone get their own stuff in to try and shine. That open door made a push attainable for anyone, so long as they didn’t screw up and kept the fans entertained. Nowadays, the office creams over Drew “Chirp Chirp” McIntyre just because he’s tall and looks like Jayson Werth on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Oh, how it used to be.

-All six men are climbing up, and they all get bumped off in crazy fashion. Then the Dudleyz nail Edge with 3D. Then we get 2 ladders with a reinforced table on top as a special platform. Act II begins.

-On the outside, Bubba powerbombs Matt through the Spanish table. Only four matches in? With Essa getting bumped from the show, was Vince on an anti-Latin kick or something?

-Bubba sets up a ladder in the aisleway that Tazz would estimate is about six miles high. I miss Tazz’s math skills. You can see where this is going: the iconic image of Bubba being put through a table as Jeff swantons off of the leader and through him. Remember this moment, because you won’t see it on WWE programming unless Jethro’s back in Vince’s employ. Ah, bitterness.

-Meanwhile, back inside, Matt drops D-Von with the Twist of Fate and then races Christian up the ladders and onto the platform. Edge is right behind Matt and Matt is oblivious to him (haw haw haw), so Edge shoves him off through a table, the brothers Copeland-Reso win their first tag team titles. Incredible match with no real flaws, except for Bubba ignoring the belts just so he can set up a painter’s ladder in the aisleway. It definitely woke the crowd up after a fairly slow start, so let’s hear it for small miracles.

-Linda McMahon’s advice to Mick Foley: “Mick, go get em”. That’s why they call her “One Take Linda”.

-Next up, the only singles match of the night, and it’s between Terri and The Kat. Seriously. Val Venis is the ref. Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah are working the corners. Oh, let’s just get this one over with….

-The only way to win is to throw your opponent out of the ring. I don’t know what’s sadder: the lame way for somebody to win, or the fact that Dean Malenko once lost one of these matches without realizing it. Ah, WCW, you could make ANYONE look stupid.

-So Mae kisses Val and Terri wins after some chicanery. Good lord, you can’t book a clean finish in THIS match? Terri has her pants torn off as a consolation for us having to sit through it. Poor Val. Before the show, there’s no doubt he was begging Vince “PLEASE, can I be in the hardcore clusterfrig? I don’t need to win the belt, it’s ok! I’ll even let Pete Gas hit me with the oscillating fan, just PLEASE?!?!”. I don’t blame em.

-The Radicalz are annoyed with Eddie Guerrero for his fixation with Chyna. Well, isn’t it obvious that Eddie would go for the bulky, shrill succubus with a grating personality? It’s the story of his life.

-So now we have Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero against Chyna and Too Cool. On the morality depth chart, I guess I go with Scotty first and Deano second, but the bottom four? Wow. That’s like a ward at Matawan all by itself.

-Eddie immediately tags out when Chyna comes in. I would have too. Maybe Eddie’s seen The Crying Game, much like I have. If Chyna came along ten years later, she could have played a Lady GaGa role, wherein she dresses like a skank, does it for attention, and no one knows what gender he/she/it is. Actually, that was kind of her gimmick in the first place, wasn’t it?

-Sexay and Scotty have to sell the abuse while Chyna gets to do the damage. No wonder nobody liked her. I marked so hard when Jericho beat her for the IC Title at Armageddon. I remember yelling so loud that I woke my Dad up and he threatened to strangle me. Sixteen year old Justin couldn’t be deterred, however, even if his dad looks like Richard Gere and Mirko Cro Cop had a kid.

-Malenko and Saturn could not WAIT to leave WCW and the horrible mismanagement and politics. Finally, they make it to the WWE, where they’re hit with a double Worm chop by Scotty. That’s like being an immigrant who makes it to Ellis Island and some kid throws a bucket of piss into your face. Huddled masses, indeed.

-Finally, things come to a head with Eddie and Chyna in there, as she lands a powerbomb, testicle squeeze, and sleeper slam for the win. Eddie would later go on to beat Brock Lesnar to become WWE Champion. So the food chain looks like Chyna > Eddie Guerrero > Brock Lesnar > Randy Couture. Man, Chyna’s in the wrong line of work. Decent enough match.

-Now for a little something different: three more WrestleMania debuts as Kurt Angle defends his IC and European Titles in a two fall match against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho.

-NOTE: In seven of the next eight WrestleManias, I will be reviewing matches that feature Chris Benoit. Some of you may be uncomfortable reading them, and you are free to skip over them in my rants. But, in my opinion, it’s wrong to ignore a part of history, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. I look at it like this: Steve Austin, in 2002, could have been a couple of hard punches and one freak mishap away from killing Debra, scary as it is to say. Wrestling has been full of abusive men and women, and though they’re not murderers like Benoit, it’s wrong to say that they’re any better as people than he was. Everybody has the capacity to kill. Some come close. Benoit happened to. My reviews will be unflinchingly unbiased and provide an accurate account of history, and it is what it is. So there.

-First fall is for the IC Title, and the crowd is beginning to die down a little bit. Sign in the crowd reads “SAVATAGE IS JERICHO”. I don’t know who should feel more insulted, Savatage or Fozzy.

-Really intricate stuff from all three men, who go into each next move without any hesitation or awkwardness. It also features a lot of moves that I miss, like Jericho’s double underhook backbreaker. Now why doesn’t he use that anymore?

-Jericho goes hard off the top into the announce table from a Benoit shove. Looked nasty. Good stuff so far.

-Jericho slaps a hold on Benoit that reminds you to log onto camelclutchblog.com for the best in sports news and opinions, as well as thoughts on American Idol. Thanks a lot, Brett. You don’t see me writing a Dancing with the Stars blog, do you?

-After Angle goes over the railing, Benoit lands a diving headbutt on Jericho to secure the IC Title. Benoit’s theme plays, even though the match isn’t over. Speaking of Benoit and music, how do you think Our Lady Peace felt when they heard about the tragedy? It’s gotta feel weird, for sure.

-Angle begins to get aggressive, having lost one belt without being pinned. Jericho soon takes control with a roundhouse on Benoit and a double powerbomb for Angle. I think it was clear that Jericho was getting one belt, since you can’t have heels take both. It would bury Jericho. Ummm, not that it’s stopped them before….

-The ref is bumped and Benoit snares Jericho in the Crossface, who taps with no ref. Doncha hate when that happens?

-Indeed, Jericho gets the European title with a lionsault on Benoit. Solid match, but it was a bit rushed and too short. Still, can’t go wrong with these three.

-Vince says that tonight, he’s going to make things right. That’s when it occurs to me that what I think is right and what Vince thinks is right are never the same.

-Lemme just run through the next match in a hurry: Rikishi and Kane vs. X-Pac and Road Dogg. Dogg tosses salad, X-Pac rides Rikishi’s face, Tori of DX tosses salad, X-Pac gets tombstoned and pinned, Too Cool and a chicken dance with Rikishi, Kane is wary of the chicken, Pete Rose runs in, Pete Rose tosses salad. Saved you a total of eight minutes of inanity. Tori at least atoned for her crappy match from last year by taking the Stinkface. She is now absolved.

-Quick note: I’m writing this on the birthday of one of my most cherished readers, a Mr. Ron Cosby, who supports my writing as much as anyone. Ron, here’s a shout out for you. That said, the Braves suck. Happy birthday, my man.

-After Rocky cuts the requisite coked up promo, it’s main event time: Vince vs. Linda vs. Shane vs. Stephanie. Wait, no, my bad, that’s just what it SEEMED like. It’s The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show vs. Triple H for the WWE Title, with elimination rules applying. Conventional wisdom says that Rock goes over to win the title. Conventional wisdom, yes.

-Showman brawl kicks things off, as with larger than life characters, the fast paced punch and kick stuff is a sure bet to open any match. At this point, Rock and Hunter were at their peaks as performers, and Mick could still go. Show’s going to impede things a bit, however.

-Well, scratch that. Show just took a Rock Bottom to become the first casualty, not even five minutes into the match. Man, Vince couldn’t have hammered that point in anymore without giving Paul Wight a shirt that read “USELESS AND UNMOTIVATED” on the front. For all the good Show was, maybe they should have gone with Shane as the fourth participant?

-Down to a respectable three, and Rock n Sock beat down Schlock. Sorry, wanted a rhyme and I think the nickname’s apt.

-Now for a semi famous spot that nearly did Foley in: he tries to leap from the top rope through Hunter on the ringside table, but doesn’t get enough push to the dive and falls short, slamming his sterum into the table. That looked so horribly painful, even moreso than his usual blood-bathy stuff. But don’t worry, Mick still made it to Disney the next day! BANG BANG!

-After Rock and Mick double cross each other and slug it out, Foley is victimized by a pair of Pedigrees to end his career. Again. Until 2004. Foley destroys Hunter with the barbed wire 2X4 before leaving, just to make us happy. Well, Mick didn’t decapitate him, but I guess it’ll have to do.

-Mick leaves with a hearty bang bang to the crowd, and Linda claps. See? She CAN display emotion. Sometimes.

-Rock and Hunter remain and, I’m sorry, but proceed to have maybe the most boring match in their entire 2 or 3 years of feuding, and that includes their thirty minute draw at Fully Loaded 1998. Crowd brawling, slow slugging, etc. It’s like they really felt the need to stretch this one out. Sorry, but it wasn’t topping the earlier title matches, which were all insanely crazy and fun and innovative. This is just dragging.

-Shane returns to ringside and smashes his dad with a chair. Didn’t work Shane, he still wants to start that football league with your inheritance.

-As Vince is taken away and bloody, Rock fends off Shane’s interference and takes control on Hunter, with the title in reach. But here comes Vince again! He’s going to get rid of Shane and….hit Rock with a chair? Crowd’s stunned. Rock kicks out, but a second chair shot inexplicably keeps him down for the pin so that HHH retains. Well, that was certainly ballsy.

-Afterward, Rock beats up Vince and Shane, and then Rock Bottoms Stephanie, just for making that stupid face after Vince bashed Rock with the chair. It’s the same face she makes when one of the ring crew guys informs her that the tanker truck full of tapioca pudding is waiting for her in the parking lot. Always a good day for Stephanie.

-CYNIC SAYS: Well, I’ll say this: I hate the ending, but it makes WrestleMania more dramatic these days. You can never rest assured that the babyface will win in the end, because you can say “Well, Hunter won in 2000….” and the ending is left in doubt. So that’s an advantage.

Honestly? I think Vince wanted the shock ending because WCW was pre-empted the next night during the relaunch phase, and he wanted to see if the fans would tune in in droves to see if Rock would try for his comeuppance on Hunter and the gang.

As a show, it had its ups and downs. The ladder match and Eurocontinental match were both great. The Hardcore Title match was fun. The World Title and six man tag were decent. Everything else could have been excised. It was a weird “middling” show in an era where WWE kicked WCW around with ease, but it didn’t hurt them at all. In fact, it helped set up a hot summer that led to many more great shows.

Especially the next WrestleMania on this tour.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WWE WrestleMania 2000: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 23, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA 2000
From The Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, CA
April 2, 2000

BACKGROUND
If the WWF could be declared winners of the Monday Night Wars just one year prior to WrestleMania 2000, then the current time period would be akin to smashing WCW’s corpse into powder with a shovel. In August 1999, WCW let one of their best talents slip through the cracks, as Chris Jericho arrived in the World Wrestling Federation to much fanfare, almost immediately rising to a high profile level that he never got to sniff in Eric Bischoff’s dwindling circus.

Five months later, in January 2000, after a booking shake-up and a rash of upper card injuries, chaos reigned in WCW at one of the company’s weakest thresholds. In the turmoil, beleaguered man-in-charge Bill Busch granted releases to four men that helped salvage the horrible booking with their in-ring work: Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero. The four men would appear in the WWF two weeks after their exodus, and would be dubbed “The Radicalz” upon entry.

Life was already grand, however, for Vince McMahon. Although Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker would miss this year’s WrestleMania with serious injuries, and with Mick Foley retiring after having one last match at the big event, the WWF still had enough reserve to move forward. Triple H was hitting his stride as the top villain, heading into Anaheim already in his third WWF Championship reign. By his side was Stephanie McMahon, who underwent a curious heel turn in the winter to become Hunter’s conniving wife.

The two formed a power couple, running roughshod over the WWF. As they and the rest of DX thrived, the fans still had The Rock, Foley, tag team sensations like The Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian, Too Cool, and a new star in Rikishi (the returning Fatu).

WWF Attitude yet reigned supreme.

THE EVENT
Triple H narrowly survived two encounters with Cactus Jack (one a street fight, the other in Hell in a Cell where he “retired” Foley) to carry the WWF Championship into WrestleMania 2000. The Rock also won the 2000 Royal Rumble, eliminating the Big Show in controversial fashion in the closing moments.

While logic would dictate that Rock vs. Triple H was the sensible main event for the biggest card of the year, that controversial ending would rear its ugly head. Show protested for weeks, using scores of evidence to convince Triple H (running the show after Vince McMahon “walked out”, distraught over Stephanie’s turn) to give him a match with The Rock to determine the true #1 contender.

At No Way Out 2000, Show defeated Rock, after Shane McMahon interfered on Show’s behalf. Rock would work his way back into the title picture by getting yet another match with Show, this time with the seething Vince McMahon himself prodigally returning. McMahon took his own son out, took over as referee, and counted Rock’s pin.

The following week, Linda McMahon came into the picture, supporting Mick Foley in his bid to finally headline WrestleMania, unretiring him for that one night.

So the final picture was Triple H (with Stephanie) vs. The Rock (with Vince) vs. Big Show (with Shane) vs. Mick Foley (with Linda) for the WWF Championship.

While the main event was somewhat tempered by this development (even dubbed as “A McMahon in Every Corner”), the rest of the card shaped up to accentuate the fresh faces.

Kurt Angle, an Olympic gold medalist, had made his in-ring debut in November 1999, and he hit the ground the running. Taking on the persona of an oblivious goody-goody who brags about his accomplishments while being unable to figure out why the world finds him so obnoxious, Angle ascended the WWF ranks swiftly, capturing the European and Intercontinental Titles with three weeks of each other.

A double champion, Angle was given a double challenge for the new millennium’s first WrestleMania: a two fall match. Angle would defend both belts in concurrent triple threat matches with charismatic rock star Chris Jericho, and machine-like sadist Chris Benoit. The three fine technicians would compete for the Intercontinental belt in fall one, and then the European title right afterward.

Also on the WWF’s “must fly list” were three tag teams that were on the cusp of being made true stars. The WWF World Tag Team titles resided with the Dudley Boyz, fairly fresh from a groundbreaking run in ECW. They would be paired together against Edge and Christian, who ditched their “Lost Boys” visage in favor of being self-deluded bro-ski’s, and the Hardy Boyz, who became teen idols for their youthful flair, as well as their daredevil antics.

The match would attempt to raise the bar set by Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon ten years prior: a triple threat ladder match, with plenty of other weapons handy.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler brought the action from ringside, while junior ring announcer Lillian Garcia kicked the show off with “America the Beautiful”. Rapper Ice T was on hand for a live performance before the opening match, while Pete Rose made his third consecutive appearance. Not only did he eat a chokeslam this year, he also ate a stinkface.

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THE RESULTS
Big Bossman/Bull Buchanan def. The Godfather/D-Lo Brown in 9:05
(This might be the most random opener in the history of WrestleMania. I have nothing nice to say about this match, so I’ll just say that the “ho” that resembled Li’l Kim was quite stacked)

WWF Hardcore: Hardcore Holly won a “duration challenge” over Crash Holly, Bradshaw, Faarooq, Tazz, Viscera, Mosh, Thrasher, Taka Michinoku, Funaki, Pete Gas, Rodney, and Joey Abs in 15:00 to win the title
(This is notable for Tim White screwing up the final count (Crash was initially supposed to win), and for Funaki winning a belt. Everybody move your lips randomly………..IN-DEED!)

T&A def. Head Cheese in 7:05
(Two teams with the worst names for tag teams have one of the worst matches that two teams with those names could possibly have. But hey, twas the PPV debut of Trish Stratus. Woooo!)

WWF World Tag Team/Triple Ladder Match: Edge & Christian def. The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in 22:29 to win the titles
(And thus, a new standard was born. Crazy spotfest that was ahead of its time, although repeat matches of its type would blow this out of the water in terms of pacing. Slow as it was in hindsight, it was still an incredible match that elevated six young talents to a new level. See WCW? See TNA? Elevation! And besides, it spawned Edge and Christian’s “reeking of awesomeness”. So we have that)

Out of the Ring Challenge: Terri def. The Kat in 2:25
(What’s worse: Val Venis getting stuck reffing this, or the fact that this was the ONLY singles match of the show?)

Chyna/Too Cool def. Eddie Guerrero/Dean Malenko/Perry Saturn in 9:38
(Eleven years later, in order: a Howard Stern running gag, a burnt out 40 year old Dolph Ziggler lookalike, a forgotten “worm” guy, a dead legend, a fat and retired legend, and a man who was recently homeless. Yeesh)

Two Fall Euro-Continental Title Match: Chris Benoit won fall won over Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho to win the Intercontinental Title; Jericho won the second fall over Angle and Benoit in 13:35 to win the European Title
(And that was the story: Angle losing both belts without being singularly defeated for either. Good match, although Jericho hated it with a passion, as per his new book. Crowd was dead, but it’s Anaheim. You don’t expect fireworks in Anaheim)

Rikishi/Kane def. X-Pac/Road Dogg in 4:16
(Historical note: Tori became the first woman to ever take Rikishi’s stinkface. It was good payback for her lousy efforts one year earlier)

WWF World Heavyweight: Triple H def. The Rock, Mick Foley, and Big Show in 36:28
(An absolute shocker; Vince turned on Rock with two chair shots and realigned with his daughter and son-in-law. The match was WAY too long, and it dragged to a finish that satisfied no one, even if Rock did take out Hunter and the McMahons at the end)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Clearly, with the bizarre booking, Vince McMahon either decided that a good swerve would shake things up, to defy fan expectations, or he no longer feared WCW and figured that such a non-pleasing set of events wouldn’t hurt his company any. In fact, Nitro was pre-empted the following night for retooling, so it seems Vince didn’t fear losing much of his audience.

While WrestleMania 2000 is often remembered for the changeover of talent (those in the ladder and two fall matches, especially), the main event stands out most as the “portrait” of the show. While the wrestlers did the work, it was the McMahons, namely Vince and Stephanie, that took hold of the spotlight.

In a sense, you can’t blame them. It was a self-congratulating moment when Vince embraced his daughter with a hug at the show’s conclusion, but the picture spoke in a clear tone. It said “We run this company, and we dominate this business. If we want to end the biggest show of the year by making the parting shot ours, then we will.”

Sadly, this would just be the beginning of a McMahon “overdose” that would occasionally worsen well after the death of the Attitude era.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania XV: Plan Nine From Russo’s Mind

March 22, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-So it’s March 28, 1999, and we’re live from the First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA, where tonight…..you know….I can’t do this.

-I can’t sit here and write a positive rant about a show that I abhorred. It took place forty minutes from my house, though I didn’t attend, but I was still looking forward to the first Philly WWE WrestleMania. And it sucked. Bad. Vince Russo’s fingerprints were smeared all over this show and it reeked of overbooked crap. It festers even more so eleven years later, because the Attitude era is over, and most appeal that this show had is long gone.

-So I won’t be reviewing this crappy show.

-SWERVE! I’ll review it, I’m just pulling your chain. Russo executes his swerves about 35 seconds after the initial presentation, so I figured I’d do the same. Seemed appropriate.

-Your hosts are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. Jim Ross was afflicted with Bell’s palsy three months before this show, and his face was still worse for wear. So instead of visual horror, we get verbal horror. To be fair, I’d actually wager that Cole only sucks when he’s with Lawler. Cole was fun with JBL and Tazz, and is doing alright with Josh Mathews now on NXT. Whereas Lawler dragged down JR for a few years until Ross found his temporary groove doing the Rumble matches with Tazz. Makes ya go “Hmmmm”.

-To kick things off, it’s the first ever Hardcore Title match in WrestleMania history, as Badd Ass Billy Gunn defends against Hardcore Holly and Al Snow. Gunn was actually interspersed in the IC Title arc and partner Road Dogg was supposed to be here, but Russo switched them around. You know, just because. Kinda like how he wanted WCW to get rid of the ring. Just because. He still has a job with TNA as of this writing. Just because. I’m going to beat this joke into the ground, Russo-style. Just because.

-Typical hardcore stuff for the time period, including some miscellaneous weapons and a hockey stick from Snow, prompting a “LET’S GO FLYERS” chant. Yes, let’s go Flyers. Let’s lose to the Devils in a year after having a 3-1 lead and watch as Scott Stevens turns Eric Lindros’ brain to horse feed. Ah, my youth was great. Except for having to watch shows like this.

-Hey, a springboard off of the chair onto Gunn in the corner by Snow. C’mon, Al, what do you think this is, a wrestling show?

-Hey it’s table time! Gunn BLASTS Holly with a chair shot, and then hip tosses Snow through the table. The crowd is alive! Wait for it….

-Gunn gets the Fame Asser, but Heatless Holly hits him with a chair and covers Snow to win the title, killing the crowd. Speaking of killing the crowd, remember when Holly and Gunn formed the most boring tag team of all time in 2004 on Smackdown? Neither does anyone else, since no one watched at that point. Match was ok, but nothing fresh.

-D-Lo Brown and Test won a battle royal on the pre-show to earn a shot at the Tag Team Titles against Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett on this show. D-Lo and Test don’t even have an issue here to exploit. At the very least, Test could have said “I’ll bet I have less charisma than Ivory!” and D-Lo could say “Yeah, probably”. Screw it, I can’t think of anything either.

-This is the final WrestleMania for both Owen and Jarrett. Owen, of course, died 2 months later in a fall before his scheduled match, and Jarrett fell off the face of the Earth in October, not having been heard from since. Rumor has it that if you close your eyes and listen close at night, you can hear Jarrett in the distance saying things like “Another reign for me won’t kill the business!’. I beg to differ.

-So sing it with me: argue argue argue, do a move, do a move, argue some more, it’s a douubbbbbble-teeeeeeeeeam, and Owen and Jarrett winnnnnnnnnnnnn! I’m doing jazz hands, but you can’t see them. D-Lo and Test would go on to….not feud. Not making the most out of an angle that began at WrestleMania? Russo, that’s brilliant!

-Highlights of the boxing prowess of both Butterbean and Bart Gunn, as they head into the Brawl for All, and Bean’s last contractual obligation with Titan land. You know, some people look back on the Attitude era with a much more bitter taste, since their natural maturation into adulthood has rendered the childish and piggish elements of this period moot. However, to watch Bart’s trainers in the video say that Bart’s going to win, while keeping straight faces, might shatter the wrestling hilarity scale. I’m willing to make such a scale if anyone’s willing to help.

-Among the judges: one hit boxing wonder Chuck Wepner, former Mike Tyson trainer Kevin Rooney, and the one and only Gorilla Monsoon, in his last major WWE appearance before his death six months later. Miss ya, Gino.

-Vinnie Pazienza is the ref. All of this is kinda pointless, since Bean puts Gunn down twice in 36 seconds, including a MURDEROUS final shot. Goodbye, Gunn. Have fun in Japan. All that’s left to note is that Cole calls Lawler “The Fight Doctor”, thus making him the only doctor in WWE history to never be investigated in a drug scandal. Other scandals, sure, but not drug.

-Mankind talks about his lifelong dream of refereeing the main event of WrestleMania. Calm down now, Mickles, not all of us can be Mike Chioda. Sometimes reaching for the stars only gets your fingers singed off.

-Speaking of the refereeing gig, it’s up for grabs in a match between Mankind and Big Show next. Show was aligned with the corporation, and horse sense indicated that Show would do anything he could to win and then, later, help Rock retain the gold to keep it in the family. Hey, Keep it In the Family, that’s an Anthrax song! Appropriate, since everytime Show comes to the ring, I get physically ill.

-Show was really beginning to slow down at this point, as his last year in WCW was the time where his body started to bloat and his work ethic gave way. Remember when Rock would do those “Well it’s the Big Slow!!!!” promos? Worked shoots, to say the least.

-Mankind manages to lock on the Socko claw, but Show finds an escape with a piggyback and backward dive, crushing Mick hard into the canvas. If Show did that in 2006, Foley would not only be dead, but the first three rows would be splattered by viscera. Not the wrestler, the material.

-Now, with Show in control, you’d think he’d just simply brutalize him for the win, right?

-Well, Show decides to get a couple chairs, set them up in the ring, and chokeslam Foley onto them. The problem? Show was too lazy to bump the ref, and it’s a DQ win for Mick. Vince comes out and demands to know why Show would do something so stupid. My guess is that if Show won, he’d have to work twice, and ain’t no way that’s going to happen. So Vince slaps Show, and Show decks him. See, Show’s trying to get fired so he can collect unemployment! Lazy giant.

-We move ahead to the IC Title match where Road Dogg defended against Val Venis, Ken Shamrock, and Goldust. The other object of affection here was Ken’s gorgeous sister, Ryan. So who got her? Ken did! Okay, they weren’t REALLY siblings, but it’s still funny to think about. Kind of a Carol and Greg Brady thing there.

-Goldust and Val tangle for a bit, as I remind myself that these two feuded over Terri just six months earlier and it’s a forgotten point here. What was the deal with…oh right, Russo writing, gotcha.

-I should note that Blue Meanie is in Goldust’s corner tonight, and is I believe my only facebook friend to ever appear at a WrestleMania. Unless the rumor about Eric Darsie being one of Undertaker’s druids is true.

-This is kind of a weird match, as it’s technically solid, but nothing interesting is happening. You have a huge love triangle thingie going with Ryan involving some of the players here, and it’s all just structured, textbook wrestling. It’s like Orton vs. HHH from WM25, where you had soap opera opportunities out the wazoo and they made it a slow paced 1 on 1 encounter. It just doesn’t work.

-Shamrock and Val take a double count out for the first set of eliminations. I don’t think the feud ever settled between the two, and that this was the end. Shamrock turned face not long afterward, and Val….well, he kinda lost all character momentum. The number of careers that Vince Russo has effected is leaving me incredulous. He’s like wrestling tuberculosis.

-After a mishap involving Meanie and Ryan, Goldust is susceptible to the Road Dogg pin. Know why I liked Dogg? He rarely won matches clean, even as a face. He’d sell for everyone and win either on a fluke or interference from whoever his opponent had a beef with. The opponent always looked like a million bucks for rattling off that much offense on him. And yet, Dogg still remained over because he had the charisma. Brian James never gets his due, and it’s about time that he did. Starting here.

-Meanwhile, Big Show is arrested, which is dangerous when you consider that his plan to collect unemployment sucks if he’s in jail and can’t get the foods that he wants. I’m certain that prison limits you to under three entire hams a day.

-The Triple H-Kane skirmish is recapped, leading to a couple of questions. One is wouldn’t Hunter be happy to be rid of Chyna? I mean, he CERTAINLY was two years later. I wonder how quickly he changed his phone numbers after WWE informed Chyna that she was out the door in 2001. The other is how Hunter was able to obtain Goldust’s costume for when he used the pyro gun on Kane. Why would those two get along? Didn’t Hunter offend Goldust and Marlena two years ago? My brain is frying.

-The San Diego Chicken does a run in on Kane, and gets revealed to be Pete Rose, and Kane destroys him. Geez, Kane, if you’re going to beat up members of the 1980 World Series team, can you beat up Larry Bowa for giving us crappy pitching rotations during his managerial stint? Thank God for Uncle Charlie.

-During the first few minutes of this one, Hunter and Kane have a contest: knee vs. boot. Who can hit more generic moves with their respective trademark body part? I’m intrigued by this concept, and so is the crowd, who are chanting….well, they’re quiet. Must be silent exhilaration.

-Match is just slowing to a crawl. Kane wasn’t in a position yet to open up his moveset, as he really didn’t have one. Hunter was still in a period where he had to be carried by a better opponent, so this “blood feud” is a lot like the last match, where generic wrestling takes precedent over a narrative and flair spots. My biggest gripe with the Attitude era, other than employment of The Insane Clown Posse.

-Chyna’s here. Suddenly, the ICP doesn’t sound so bad right now.

-Kane continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule C: Every heel must try to use the ringsteps as a weapon in a big match.

-Triple H continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule D: Every babyface must counter the ringsteps by causing the heel to hit his face on them.

-Referee Teddy Long continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule E: Every referee must ignore use of the ringsteps during any match.

-So Chyna comes in with a chair, and anyone with half a brain can see where this is going. Russo, however, was surprised at the development, even though he wrote it. Chyna hits Kane with the chair for the DQ and reunites with Hunter. Hunter’s reaction: “……..great”. Match was a little too plodding, but possibly enough for the coveted award of “Fourth best match we’ll see tonight”. If Kane wins it, I’m iffy. If Dino Bravo wins it, I’m borderline suicidal. For good reason, too.

-Vince McMahon announces himself as guest referee for the main event as Kevin Kelly does a live report. My question: was Vince just hanging around the vacant area? Why would a man of his stature just loiter around random spots of the building alone? Does he hide in corners and question his manhood? Does he need a quiet place to play pong on his Blackberry? WE NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS!

-For those of you who extol the virtues of women’s wrestling and, hell, women’s lib in general and believe that the genders are equal and thus deserving of equal attention, feel free to pretend this next portion did not happen.

-Sable defends her prestigious (HA) Women’s Title against Tori. Not Torrie. Not Torrie Wilson. Just Tori. Not the smokin’ hot Idaho blond with the amazing curves and winning smile. I’m talking about Tori, the woman who looks like Hilary Swank after set the world record for “Holding Most Lemon Wedges in One’s Mouth”. Also, she’s wearing a gray catsuit to hide her manish muscles, and not look out of place against a Playboy Playmate. This is already a bad omen.

-Tori’s first task is to be repeatedly kicked to the floor by Sable, and she does it well. And by “well”, I mean “At least she didn’t sustain an aneurysm from blinking”.

-Sable’s far less motivated than last year, but how can she really be at her best when she has to carry the uncarryable? Sable was nearing the end anyway, as ego would soon drive her out of WWE. I wonder if the implants had to sign a no compete clause.

-Tori can’t even stick the landing on a Sable Bomb cover. It’s like the universal suck of both Bella Twins comprised into a succubus. I’m in awe.

-Just in case I didn’t know I was among the damned, here comes Nicole Bass to beat up Tori. In Hell, if you can’t do a four minute match on the biggest show of the year, you get beaten up by Tony Little’s evil twin. Sable wins, and I’m just glad that it’s over.

-Kevin Kelly interviews the classic five crew of DX before X-Pac’s match. Hunter does all the talking, which should tell you all that you need to know about X-Pac’s promo skills. Or at least WWE’s faith in handing him a mic. Way to boost his confidence, guys.

-So get this: X-Pac’s facing Shane McMahon for the WWE European Title, and it’s the second best match of the night. Seriously. Shane had about 2-3 matches in his CAREER under his belt at this point, and he outperforms at lot of the stiffs that clouded the roster during this period. I think now would be a good time to acknowledge the fact that X-Pac, while a notorious heat seeker, was a tremendous wrestler who could carry lesser opponents to fun matches, even an inexperienced Shane McMahon. Sean Waltman deserves more credit than he seems to get, even from the spotfest loving smarks.

-Shane has Test with him, and Test is wearing Hulk Hogan’s Yappapi strap. WATCHA GONNA DO WHEN A LACK OF CHARISMA RUNS WILD ON YOU?!? So Test works twice and Show doesn’t? No wonder Vince always seemed to like him more.

-Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco try to attack X-Pac during his entrance, and they go down in flames. I realize that by using “go down” and “flames” in the presence of Pat is just opening a can of worms, but what can I say? I work blue.

-X-Pac and Shane exchange shots with the Yappapi strap, which immediately makes it better than the one Hogan and Ric Flair had one year later. I think TNA would be best served to have Hogan and Flair in the rematch on the ten year anniversary of the match, just for laughs. I mean, greatness. Yeah, greatness.

-X-Pac beats up the extended members of the Mean Street Posse outside the ring, and I’d like to point out that X-Pac has beaten up about 8 guys by himself so far. Who says Waltman is lazy?

-Test tries to interfere with a belt shot to Pac, but Shane can only get 2. Test’s further interference results in a roundhouse and a Bronco Buster. 9! 9! X-Pac has beaten up 9 guys! AH AH AH! Speaking of the Count, here comes Chyna, along with HHH. Whenever she comes out, I always count the number of days until I never have to see her in WWE again.

-MEGA SWERVE! Hunter Pedigrees X-Pac, proving that while X-Pac can beat up nine men, one Hunter is too much. I agree, one Hunter IS too much. Shane gets the cheap win to put more heat on himself. Good match, though Chyna’s double double turn still irks me. Because it’s Chyna. And Chyna herself irks me.

-And now, for something you’ll really enjoy. Well, not really. It’s Undertaker and Big Bossman in a Hell in a Cell match. This is notable for Cole pointing out that the cage is dangerous because you can get your fingers caught in it. Cole’s voice is dangerous because you can get your fingers caught in your throat trying to induce vomiting. True story.

-Bossman was just useless at this point, a one dimensional brawler who served as mid level fodder for the faces to get through on the way up. No shame in that, but in a Hell in a Cell match? Get out. They were better off having a blindfold match. Where the fans are blindfolded.

-Undertaker’s intro to his song is neat, as he urges us to allow the purity of evil to guide us. That was on a pamphlet I received for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

-I can either recap the match, or I can summarize it in one paragraph. Ready? There’s about 2 ounces of blood, a pair of handcuffs break, they punch a lot, Taker’s slow, Bossman’s slower, the crowd is far gone, and I’m falling asleep just TYPING THIS PARAGRAPH. That’s pretty ambitious for a crap match. Way to reach beyond your grasp, gentlemen.

-Tombstone does Bossman in. Afterward, with the help of Edge, Christian, and Gangrel, Undertaker hangs the Bossman from a noose. Cole is so horrified and shocked that, while Bossman hangs, he immediately plugs the main event. That’s just so Vince-ish. No wonder he keeps his job.

-By the way, if you think about it, The Brood are like the Kardashian sisters: Edge is Kim, because he’s the star. Christian is Kourtney because he’s more than serviceable. That makes Gangrel Khloe, just for the teeth alone. Also, because nobody cares.

-And now, to save us from the crap….

-For the WWE World Heavyweight Title, The Rock defends the strap against Stone Cold Steve Austin. When in doubt, rely on the MVPs. I’m banking on it.

-JR! JIM ROSS IS HERE! HIT THE BRICKS, COLE! Jim Ross still looks bad, with half of his face sagging from the palsy, but you know what? Michael Cole suffering a stroke-like condition may actually IMPROVE his quality. As for Lawler, there’s nothing that can save him.

-First, Vince comes out to try and play referee, but Shawn Michaels (then commissioner) has him kicked out. Shawn accidentally encourages Vince to interfere, foreshadowing the ending. Pain pill addictions are not a pretty thing kids.

-Austin and Rock slug it out immediately, as only these 2 can do with such chemistry. The match is fast paced too, with brawling inside and outside the ring. This is better than the “decent” matches earlier that were just holds and moves without story and emotion. For those that criticize Austin’s more simplistic style, I say screw off.

-Austin and Rock don’t even take time for a breather, brawling behind the railing, and Rock finally clotheslines Austin back to ringside. Any brawl that’s spirited is automatically great. Spirit of any kind in a main event is always welcome. I’m just looking for ANY silver lining now.

-But no, it’s not over as Austin and Rock brawl up the aisle to the entrance way, and include it as a part of the match. Rock takes a hard shot into the giant logo, but Austin gets backdropped with his leg hitting a motion light, and it didn’t look planned or pretty. Good intensity so far.

-Rock takes JR’s water and spits on Austin’s face. Can you get Bell’s palsy from that?

-Austin puts Rocky through the Spanish announce table with 2 elbow smashes, and the fight continues inside, where Rock works the leg. Booo, not during THIS match. Keep the wrestling crap for the undercard! Wait, did I just agree with Russo? GAH!

-Rock Bottom gets 2, so the champ gets himself a chair. Austin gains possession of it after a skirmish and swings, but Rock pulls Mike Chioda in harms way, and Chioda’s dead. Speaking of dead, suicide enthusiast Tim White takes over. The segues don’t just write themselves, for those wondering at home. Rock only manages a two count on Austin after a chair shot, so Rock gives him Rock Bottom. That’s two down. Austin turns and lays out Rock with a Stunner, but no ref! Earl Hebner runs down the aisle like a madman and slides in, but only gets 2. Crowd is REALLY sinking their teeth into this one.

-Rock goes low to turn the tide, and here comes Vince again to lay out Hebner. If you’re Bret Hart, who do you cheer for there? Rock and Vince double team Austin, and here’s Mankind, clutching his ribs, to run in and drive Vince out. Foley takes over officiating, as was stipulated earlier. Wow, WWE’s abiding by their own rules! Banner day for all! Russo, that IS brilliant!

-Rock manages to land another Rock Bottom, but misses the Corporate (People’s) Elbow. Austin tries to stun him, but Rock tries to Bottom him out, but Austin elbows his way into a Stunner for the win and his third WWE Title. Incredible match that at least put a good ending onto a crappy show, giving us something to hold our heads high to.

-Afterward, Austin caps off a year of feuding with Vince by destroying him with a Stunner and celebrating with a few beers alongside Mick. At least the show ended on a good note. Not all WrestleManias did. In fact, there’s one coming up that’s of that ilk….

-CYNIC SAYS: WrestleManias 14 and 15 are a tale of two cities for sure. 14 featured a ton of organization and all of the right winners. 15 was a muddled mess of random swerves for the sake of swerves, boring action, and an indication that some aspects of the Attitude were in need of an overhaul. WWE was still crushing WCW by a wide margin, but had it been close, this show may have given WCW some momentum. You know, if WCW had a clue as to what they were doing.

When Russo left by year’s end, the WWE experienced an upswing in quality and continuity, and it led to one of my favorite periods in wrestling history. If that meant that shows like this would be fewer and farther in between, with an interest in long term booking and more compelling characters, then I was glad to see Russo go. Over ten years later, and this show hasn’t aged any better.

Check out the main event and maybe the European title match, but the rest is for the fearless.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania XV: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 22, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XV
From The First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA
March 28, 1999

BACKGROUND
On January 4, 1999, a taped Raw and a live Nitro squared off, each building a moment that would be unforgettable and, in a myriad of ways, history changing.

On Raw, filmed six nights prior in Worcester, MA, Mick Foley, as Mankind, realized his lifelong dream, climaxing his thirteen year wrestling career by winning the WWF Championship from The Rock. Foley’s victory lap around ringside, as well as his post-match celebration with his children, provided a feel good moment for a grind-stoning individual that had paid enough dues to purchase a continent.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Nitro had pulled a bait and switch with their World Title main event. Goldberg, the hometown hero, was nixed from the match due to a storyline “stalking charge”, and Hollywood Hogan returned to WCW to challenge champion Kevin Nash. The match ended when Hogan poked Nash in the chest, with Nash dropping like he’d been walloped with a hatchet, and then pinned the champion to begin a new incarnation of the New World Order, as the two men were in cahoots.

WCW would never be the same, as their stale and asinine booking (coupled with Tony Schiavone revealing Foley’s eventual win on TV before it aired, mocking it in the process) would turn off a large quantity of fans permanently.

The WWF, with the hipper “Attitude” concept, as well as the willingness to provide a moment of glory in contrast to WCW’s hackneyed, egomaniacal circle-jerk, surged ahead in the ratings for good, and never looked back.

With WCW now a dead issue, although not officially at the time, the WWF focused on the media blitz for WrestleMania XV. With The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, Undertaker, and newly signed Paul Wight (WCW’s Giant), all eyes were on the winners of wrestling’s Monday night war.

THE EVENT
Unlike WCW, which refused to use its most popular names (Goldberg, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, and Sting) in the main event scene, for fear of bruising a few egos backstage, the WWF set up The Rock against Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship as the main event.

Austin ended up being the last man eliminated of the 1999 Royal Rumble, with WWF’s owner, Vince McMahon, triumphing, thanks to The Rock’s interference. McMahon, however, relinquished his title opportunity and planned to give it to another Corporation member (to keep the belt in the family, no matter what). However, WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels announced that, since Vince gave up the shot, the runner-up would get it by default.

That would be Austin.

Vince, however, had one chance to regain that main event match, and that was by beating Austin in a cage match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In the first Austin/Vince match in history, Austin bloodied McMahon, put him through a table, and staved off a late interference attempt by the debuting Big Show to win. In fact, Show launched Austin at the cage, and the bars broke apart, with Austin safely landing on the floor to keep his title match secure.

Show would remain McMahon’s top enforcer, and would be given a match with Mankind at WrestleMania. The winner of the match would get to referee the Rock/Austin main event. In fact, Show cost Mankind the WWF Title on February 15. Mankind was engaged in a ladder match with The Rock, when Show chokeslammed Foley off the ladder to cause the defeat.

At this point, however, McMahon had a spate of other problems. The Undertaker, at this point, was forming an unholy cult called the Ministry of Darkness, with himself playing the role of Devil incarnate. Undertaker seemed obsessed with Vince McMahon and his Corporation, and was bent on making life miserable for the WWF head honcho.

It would turn out that Undertaker’s obsession with actually with McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, who had not yet been introduced to the audience. As of now, Stephanie was merely a 22 year old All-American girl who loved her father and would never hurt a fly. And yet, The Undertaker was using her as a psychological weapon to bring terror to McMahon.

As a means of combating “The Lord of Darkness”, McMahon dispatched his personal enforcer, The Big Bossman, to face Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match at the grandest show of the year.

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D-Generation X was, as expected, a prominent part of the show. Triple H would take on Kane, with whom Chyna had double crossed Helmsley to associate with. X-Pac would face unlikely European Champion Shane McMahon, whose silver-spooned disposition grated on the degenerate’s nerves. Road Dogg would defend the Intercontinental Title in a four way against Ken Shamrock, Val Venis, and Goldust, and Billy Gunn put the Hardcore Championship on the line against Al Snow and Hardcore Holly.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler called the action, with Jim Ross, recovering from a second case of Bell’s palsy, replacing Cole in the main event. Pete Rose appeared for the second straight year just to get mauled by Kane again, and Boyz II Men performed America the Beautiful. Also, Gorilla Monsoon appeared before the WWF audience for the final time.

THE RESULTS
WWF Hardcore: Hardcore Holly def. Billy Gunn and Al Snow in 7:06 to win the title
(Decent, abbreviated brawl with Holly taking a killer chair shot at one point from Gunn. These three went from being the upper midcard of 1999 to Smackdown’s lower midcard in 2004. Kinda sad)

WWF World Tag Team: Owen Hart/Jeff Jarrett def. D-Lo Brown/Test in 3:58
(Brown and Test co-won a battle royal on the pre-show to get this shot, which has been forgotten by time. This was Owen’s final WrestleMania before his death two months later, and wrestling hasn’t quite been the same without him)

Brawl For All: Butterbean def. Bart Gunn via TKO in 35 seconds
(Gunn was basically decapitated here. What I wouldn’t have given for Monsoon to grab Cole’s headset and yell “That’s Excedrin headache #35!”)

To Referee the Main Event: Mankind def. Big Show by disqualification in 6:50
(Slow and plodding; not a good use of Foley. So win a midcard match and you get to referee ‘Mania’s main event? Big John Studd had to win a Royal Rumble to referee a throwaway match at WrestleMania V! That’s not fair!)

WWF Intercontinental/Fatal Four Way: Road Dogg def. Val Venis, Ken Shamrock, and Goldust in 9:47
(Billy Gunn and Road Dogg switched feuds; Dogg was brawling with Snow all through the winter while Gunn was involved with Goldust and Venis in trying to deflower Shamrock’s sister, Ryan. Damn that Russo and his lame swerves)

Kane def. Triple H by disqualification in 11:33
(Chyna turned on Kane to reunite with Triple H. This match is so boring that Hunter should be forced to watch it ten times in a row every time WWE stock drops a point)

WWF Women’s: Sable def. Tori in 5:09
(They gave Tori five minutes. They gave TORI five minutes. The only thing that could have made this match worse was if Nicole Bass showed up. Did I mention Nicole Bass showed up?)

WWF European: Shane McMahon def. X-Pac in 8:41
(Best match of the night so far, and nothing else had even come close. X-Pac, for as much of a trouble making punk as he may be, could carry anyone when he was motivated. Next time you chant “X-PAC SUCKS!”, remember how he helped save this show)

Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker def. Big Bossman in 9:48
(The worst Hell in a Cell match ever. Bossman was hanged after the match by Edge, Christian, and Gangrel, and Cole sold it by acting horrified. Then he paused and introduced the next video package. Sigh….)

WWF World Championship: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. The Rock in 16:52 to win the title
(Three referees got taken out, Austin and Rock brawled all over the arena, Austin won with an emphatic Stunner, and then the new champ beat up McMahon afterward. A chaotically fun way to end a lackluster show, as you can always count on Austin and Rock to save the day)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY

The WWF was so beloved at this point by the majority populace of fans, that a clunker like this show was given a free pass. The storylines leading up to WrestleMania XV were so contrived and over-the-top (breaking and entering with intent of kidnapping Stephanie McMahon, HHH shooting Kane with a pyro cannon, Ryan Shamrock sleeping with the entire midcard, etc), but it didn’t seem to matter. Liking the WWF was the “cool thing”, and this show is more remembered as another brick in the Attitude wall, than what it looks like today: a show where Vince Russo tried too hard to be edgy and in-your-face, when it was just mostly controversy for the sake of it.

The saving grace of the show was Austin and Rock, in a spirited brawl with their unteachable instincts, shifting the focus away from the overbooked mess that was WrestleMania XV with their match.

Vince Russo would be gone six months later, and Vince McMahon learned an important lesson. It’s not what you book, be it simple or complex, but who you book it around.

Austin and Rock could salvage anything just by being Austin and Rock. Not everyone was that lucky or good.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Ranking The WWE Elimination Chamber Matches

February 18, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

It’s War Games, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble all in one – it’s the Elimination Chamber? Devised in kayfabe by Eric Bischoff over a decade ago, the Chamber has been used to decide both championships and championship opportunities. The oft-stated forboding nature of this domed structure is palpable enough to have spun off its own annual PPV each February.

There have been 16 such Elimination Chamber matches to date, and here they are, from worst to best.

The Godawfully Ghastly

16. ECW Championship: Big Show (c) vs. Rob Van Dam vs. CM Punk vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Test vs. Hardcore Holly (12/3/06, December to Dismember)
WINNER: Lashley
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Lashley, Test (2)

Any hopes that ECW diehards had of their resurrected brand fulfilling the lost appeal of the original, died in Augusta, GA on this night. Vince McMahon monkeyed with Paul Heyman’s creation one last time before dismissing Paul E one day later, and the result was, in some ways, the beginning of the end of McMahon’s teflon-coated characterization

Crowd favorites Punk and Van Dam were eliminated early to set the stage for Lashley’s (in theory) Superman finish, where he plowed through Test and Show to win the gold. A mixed reaction met Vince’s next big thing, and Vince would soon enter a feud with him that was lukewarm at best. The addition of weapons to this Chamber couldn’t save it.

15. World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Goldberg vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Kevin Nash vs. Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton (8/24/03, SummerSlam)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Goldberg (3)

Helmsley was saddled with leg injuries, and a noticeable gut, from a lack of his usual workout regimen. He performed exactly 2 minutes of physical work in the match, and scored the victory over Goldberg to retain the gold. Had WWE not been in a rut of dwindling ratings and putrid creative in 2003, Goldberg’s loss would have rivaled his WCW loss to Nash at Starrcade.

Many expected Goldberg to be what they knew him to be from day one: a muscle-bound bulldozer. And he was, mowing through Orton, Michaels, and Jericho to leave himself with the champion. But Ric Flair slid a sledgehammer to his charge, and after one simple knock to the head of “The Man”, a rather dismal SummerSlam ended on such a disappointing note.

14. WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Carlito vs. Chris Masters vs. Kurt Angle vs. Kane (1/8/06, New Year’s Revolution)
WINNER: Cena
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Carlito (3)

Journey back with me over 7 years to a time when Cena “overcoming the odds” was a fairly novel concept. Cena became the first man in the Chamber’s history (to be fair, this was the fourth such incarnation) to win the match from one of the two starting spots. The match is known more for its aftermath (Edge cashing in the briefcase) than the actual bout.

Angle was gone quicker than a flash, and Carlito and Masters would take over the match. Cena was busted open, and the midcard duo summarily eliminated Kane before Carlito scoring a surprising pin on Michaels. Then Carlito backstabbed Masters with a roll-up pin before Cena, in his crimson mask, rolled up Carlito seconds later to retain the title.

13. World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Edge vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Mike Knox vs. Kane (2/15/09, No Way Out)
WINNER: Edge
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Edge, Mysterio (2)

This was during the annoying period where both World Titles changed a combined 65 times in 3 weeks (give or take a dozen switches), and Cena’s 3 month reign (an eon in this era) ended in one of the rare times where you knew for sure he was cooked. And it all began when Edge attacked original entrant Kofi Kingston, and Vickie Guerrero allowed Edge his entry.

See, Edge was WWE Champion headed into the show, and he lost the Chamber earlier in the night in a matter of minutes (minor spoiler). So he, being the “Ultimate Opportunist” just finagled his way into this match, and you knew Edge would somehow win. Cena didn’t record a single elimination, amazingly, and Edge speared Mysterio to gain the other title.

The Appropriately Audacious

12. WWE Championship: Sheamus (c) vs. John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Ted Dibiase (2/21/10, Elimination Chamber)
WINNER: Cena
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Everyone but Orton (1)

This may have leveraged its way up the list a little bit, had Cena not lost the title minutes later to Batista, per Angry Vince’s impromptu booking. As it was, this one was stocked with its share of interesting plot developments, notably in the form of Cody Rhodes interfering for Dibiase to get Orton out first, and a grueling Cena/HHH finish that coulda gone either way.

Sheamus’ first run as champion, before he was a grinning doofus with a latently racist mindset, ended after 2 months, when his real-life mentor Helmsley Pedigreed him. With the Celtic Warrior gone, HHH and Cena had a race to the wire, but Cena proved to be too much, and made Helmsley tap to the STF. And then it was off to put Batista over.

11. World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Big Show vs. Great Khali vs. Santino Marella vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Wade Barrett (2/19/12, Elimination Chamber)
WINNER: Bryan
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Marella (2)

What began as a very mundane, very bland Chamber match (with the crowd even chanting their displeasure) turned into a rather exciting contest by the end, thanks to some surprising booking. Khali and Show were eliminated early on, leaving Marella as the only babyface if you don’t count the love for Bryan. And that’s when things began to get interesting.

Marella surprised Rhodes with a roll-up to eliminate the Intercontinental Champion, and then cooperated with Bryan to get rid of Barrett. In many cases, Santino Marella is merely the comedic patsy, but here, he won the crowd over as he nearly defeated Bryan on several occasions, building to a fever pitch where he finally tapped to the Yes/No Lock.

10. #1 Contender’s Match: Undertaker vs. Batista vs. Finlay vs. MVP vs. Big Daddy V vs. Great Khali (2/17/08, No Way Out)
WINNER: Undertaker
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Undertaker (3)

For the very first time, a Chamber match had merely the opportunity for a title match at stake, as opposed to actual gold. The idea that Khali and the former Mabel would be in position to have a chance to become champion is frightening enough, but they were fortunately done away with before they could bog down the works. With them gone, the real fun began.

It was Undertaker’s showcase, and not since he battered Mick Foley inside Hell in a Cell had he looked so violently dominant. MVP was killed off via a chokeslam off a pod, and Finlay met his end with a chokeslam on the grating. Taker remained with the man he had the best feud of 2007 with, and after brawling it out with his nemesis, a Tombstone put Batista way.

9. #1 Contender’s Match: Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton vs. Jack Swagger vs. Kane vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Mark Henry (2/17/13, Elimination Chamber)
WINNER: Swagger
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Orton, Henry (2)
A shot at Alberto Del Rio’s World Heavyweight Title hung in the balance, so you’d figure a heel was winning this one. Being that Del Rio was blander than flavorless soup in his sudden turn as a lunch-bucket immigrant, it was appropriate that the equally bland Swagger would earn the shot, after suddenly returning as Rick Perry with muscles. Lucky us.
Still, the match was quite good, particularly when Henry entered and began demolishing everything in sight. The crowd lost its steam when Henry was downed by Orton’s RKO, and it seemed apparent that Swagger, inexplicably, was the only likely winner. After Orton RKOed Jericho out, Swagger indeed cradled Orton to win.

8. #1 Contender’s Match: John Cena vs. CM Punk vs. Randy Orton vs. John Morrison vs. R-Truth vs. Sheamus (2/20/11, Elimination Chamber)
WINNER: Cena
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Punk (2)

A chance to face The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII, and a chance to be overshadowed by The Rock, hung in the balance. Consolation prizes included: teaming with Snookie, having your US Title match bumped from the big event, and being relegated to the pre-show battle royal. But rather than focus on the bass-ackward booking, let’s talk about the fun of this contest.

In a creative moment, Punk was eliminated seconds into his entrance, but was allowed to stay per the anonymous GM (remember that?) who ruled that Punk’s faulty pod door unfairly hindered him. Morrison landed a bizarre dive off the chamber’s concave roof onto Sheamus, which coincided a short push for him. Cena, of course, won in the end after AA’ing Punk.

The Excitingly Extreme

7. World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker (c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio vs. John Morrison vs. R-Truth (2/21/10, Elimination Chamber)
WINNER: Jericho
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Everyone but R-Truth (1)

Although Jericho’s victory would lead to a forgettable angle with Edge for the title (“SPEEEEEEEEAR”), and ultimately a title switch to Jack Swagger, this Chamber provided not only some fast-paced, brutal action, but the ending set up WrestleMania even moreso than Jericho’s title win, and it would lead to the exodus of one of wrestling’s greatest stars.

Truth and Punk were early exits, leading to Mysterio and Morrison to carry the body of the match with their typical stuntwork. Once they were gone, Undertaker was fixing to finish off Jericho, but Shawn Michaels popped up through the grating, and superkicked Undertaker, allowing Jericho to win. HBK got his rematch; the focal point of WrestleMania XXVI.

6. WWE Championship: Edge (c) vs. Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy vs. The Undertaker vs. Big Show vs. Vladimir Kozlov (2/15/09, No Way Out)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Undertaker, Triple H (2)

As mentioned previously, this is the era where you’d wake up to a new champion seemingly every other day until Randy Orton, of all people, provided some stability over the spring and summer. But at least the matches weren’t always shoddy. Some of them, like this one, featured a number of main eventers at their hard-working peak. Also, Vladimir Kozlov was involved.

Edge was eliminated in under three minutes via fluke pin, so a new champion was guaranteed. Once Kozlov bit the bullet, you had four credible stars that could have each potentially walked out with the gold. The proceedings whittled down to Undertaker and HHH, who did more in 7 minutes than they did with 30 inside Hell in a Cell. A Pedigree gave Hunter his final World Title.

5. World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho vs. Booker T vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Kane (11/17/02, Survivor Series)
WINNER: Michaels
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Jericho, Michaels (2)

The first incarnation of the Chamber was not without its glaring botches. For one, Triple H had his throat sandwiched by an errant RVD dive, and could barely speak afterward. In another case, the production crew messed up the order of entrants, so Kane entered one spot early, throwing things into disarray. Otherwise, the match was fueled by a hot MSG crowd, and a great story.

It was Michaels’ second match back and, despite his turd-brown tights and Peter Stormare-hairstyle, the crowd was aching for a great comeback story. Michaels eliminated Jericho to bring it down to he and his old DX buddy, who’d brutalized him over the summer. Michaels won his final World Title with Sweet Chin Music, while the Garden, and Jim Ross, rejoiced loudly.

4. WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. R-Truth (2/19/12, Elimination Chamber)
WINNER: Punk
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Punk, Jericho (2)

Jericho was unable to fulfill his “end of the world” proclamation at the Royal Rumble, being Brogue Kicked off the apron by Sheamus to send “The Great White” to WrestleMania. But fans felt that Jericho’s consolation prize would be to unseat Punk inside the Chamber, to pay off his highly unusual behavior since his return. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t happen either.

Jericho was a house of fire inside the Chamber, eliminating Ziggler and Kingston (the latter with a retro-fantastic Lion Tamer). But Jericho chose to remove Kofi from the Chamber himself as a grandstanding gesture. During this sequence, Punk roundhouse kicked him out of the door, and a wounded Jericho couldn’t continue. Punk then took Miz out with the GTS to win.

The Hallmark of Hellishness

3. World Heavyweight Championship: Edge (c) vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Big Show vs. Kane vs. Wade Barrett vs. Drew McIntyre (2/20/11, Elimination Chamber)
WINNER: Edge
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Edge, Kane (2)

It doesn’t necessarily look like the lineup of a classic cage match, given the occasional lethargy of the 2 big men, and how McIntyre’s fallen down the card. While Edge and Mysterio put together the best finishing sequence in the match’s history, the rest of the match was pretty solid in its own right, with McIntyre shining in particular, baring a rarely-seen aggressive side.

The early eliminations were all rapid-fire, concluding with Rey and Edge doubling up to take out Kane. Once alone, the two traded near-falls for close to 10 minutes before Edge speared his former partner-turned-rival to retain. As a bonus, Christian made his return after the match saving his brother (not “friend”) from an assault by number one contender Alberto Del Rio.

2. #1 Contender’s Match: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Jericho vs. Umaga vs. JBL (2/17/08, No Way Out)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Jericho, Triple H (2)

This match may have meant a bit more if Hardy hadn’t been forced to the sideline weeks later after a drug failure. As it was, JBL and Umaga were eliminated early (with Umaga putting up a classic monster-heel performance prior to being pinned), and the match then centered on four well-regarded babyfaces. Well, three, as Jericho was eliminated seconds later.

Proving that the Chamber is every man for himself, Triple H eliminated Michaels, after Hardy had stuck Shawn with the Twist of Fate. After that, Hardy hung in there, surviving one Pedigree, and nearly struck with a Twist on Helmsley, but would fall victim to a second one onto a chair (JBL had brought chairs into the cage after his elimination) to give HHH the shot.

1. For the Vacant World Heavyweight Championship/Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels: Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Edge (1/9/05, New Year’s Revolution)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Batista (2)

It was a lousy show before this match, but it’s not hard to see why: the entire main event tier was tied up with this one. Triple H dropped the title after a controversial finish in a triple threat match with Benoit and Edge, and had to go through Hell to get it back. His main henchman Batista, on the verge of a crowd-demanded face turn, was also at odds with him.

After Batista dispatched of Benoit and Jericho with assertive ease, “The Animal” worked with his boss to try and rid their former ally, Orton. But Orton dropped Batista with an RKO to eliminate him. Triple H, cunning as he is, didn’t make the save when he easily could have. Instead, an unknowing Batista took Orton out, and made it easy for Triple H to reign once more.

Justin Henry is a freelance writer who splits time between this site, WrestleCrap.com, and FootballNation.com. He can be found via his wrestling Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/wrestlecrapjrh)

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